The American Center for Physics Presents ShadowLands Group Exhibition

By Editorial Team on October 15, 2018
Photo courtesy of The American Center for Physics.
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Reception: Tuesday, October 23 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm
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Gallery Talk: Tuesday, October 23 at 6:15pm

For the artists in ShadowLands, the outward exploration of natural phenomena becomes a reflection of a personal, inner journey of discovery. Although their visions involve a different language and may appear opposed to those of scientists, the committed passion, the insatiable curiosity, and the ongoing risk-taking make artists and scientists kindred spirits. Most importantly, their fundamental quest is the same—to understand why things are the way they are. As Sir Isaac Newton mused in 1704, “Have not the small Particles of Bodies certain Powers, Virtues or Forces, by which they act at a distance, not only upon the Rays of Light for reflecting, refracting and reflecting them, but also upon one another for producing a great part of the Phænomena of Nature?”

Art and physics have always been “Great Attractors” to adapt a term describing a gravitational anomaly in intergalactic space. Art interprets the visible world. Science, in particular physics, charts its invisible workings. In the first collaborative venture between the American Center for Physics and the Washington Sculptors Group, the nine artists in ShadowLands mine the notion of gravity and its varying effects on light and mass. Displaying a broad range of artistic approaches, Alan Binstock, Janet Brome, Shanthi Chandrasekar, Hsin-Hsi Chen, Elsabé Dixon, Emily Fussner, Jean Sausele-Knodt, John A Schaffner, and Bo Simeon explore the many ways that dimensional works respond to gravity, interact with space, and move through time.

Alan Binstock, Shanthi Chandrasekar and Elsabé Dixon are especially drawn to the dynamic between macro and micro worlds as a filter for their search. In the lens-shaped Weight of Light and the graded Orb Rebirth—a cluster of fiery golden and turquoise discs, Binstock exploits transparency and translucencies resulting from layers of plate glass, cast resin, and shattered tempered glass, which allows visual penetration of the sculpture’s surface and interplay with natural light. Similar interests in Eastern metaphysics and Western science fuel Chandrasekar. In Wormhole, she coaxes a tunnel shape by knotting threads from terminal circles in opposite directions. In another series, she interweaves flax, abaca and cotton pulp with other organic materials into an amalgamation of unique paper discs. Titled Cosmic Design, the series is meant to suggest galactic patterns from far away and up close. Dixon finds inspiration in Andrea diSessa’s phenomenological primitives (or p-prims), a system of knowledge that is based not on formal learning, but on personal observation of the physical world and used as a problem-solving tool to describe phenomena. In the drawing and sculpture pairs, P-Prim One and P-Prim Two, pod-like forms of different hues, delicately layered and nestled inside exoskeletons, test our sense of visibility and our ability to differentiate color.

Emily Fussner, Hsin-Hsi Chen and Bo Simeon engage the temporality of light and the solidity of mass in their work. Fussner takes her cue from the overlooked and peripheral spaces in our everyday surroundings. In Compositions in Light I-III, she experiments with shapes created by natural light and shadow using objects of varying reflective, translucent, and opaque materials, thereby memorializing transitory patterns into ethereal abstractions. Chen constructs two-dimensional drawings with shifting planes and heightened contrasts into three-dimensional topographies that seem to defy logic. In works like her Hedrons Series and Planet Sides, she sees light as a stand-in for the seemingly unpredictable events in space, and shadow for the inner secrets of the soul. Bo Simeon presents renderings of two projects from his Tao of Light series, the Washington Monument Light Installation and the Statue of Liberty Laser Installation. Both nocturnal scenes show projections of highly focused laser or light beams, red and blue respectively, which in turn generate temporary eye-dazzling, sculptural installations with these iconic structures, colossal sculptures in their own right.

Janet Brome, John A. Schaffner and Jean Sausele-Knodt investigate the inherent properties of their materials to produce a sense of light and shadow. For Brome, it is the fleeting and graceful effects available through layered window screen, often augmented with paint. Through directional lighting, she transforms a common hardware item into shimmering swirls akin to the primordial cosmic soup. In Antimatter Shadows I-II, she evokes instability and flux by enlisting cast shadows to complete the compositions. Schaffner sees making art as a kind of puzzle, starting his problem solving with line drawings that magnify various viewpoints. Then combining industrial design with his passion for wood, he cuts, bends, and carves textured forms, including Shadows Suspended and Shadows in Black and White, which balance negative and positive space and play with our perception of darkness. In Sausele-Knodt’s mixed media assemblages, such as Rebar in the Mix and Graphite Interactions, staging individual elements functions as a platform to sort out the many social, cultural and visual realities of daily life. She finds this process of rebuilding fragments, which often reference observed positive and negative shapes, cathartic and instrumental in orchestrating a new sense of time and space.