Toledo Museum of Art showcases theme of light across collection

To mark the acquisition of Flat Torus 4 by California-based artist Phillip K. Smith III, a new exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) explores the theme of light from a wide range of perspectives. Luminous Visions: Phillip K. Smith III and Light Across the Collection considers Smith’s work alongside objects from TMA’s collection that span time, culture and media.

Exhibition themes include the importance of light in religious or spiritual practices; studies of optics and color theory; applications of translucent and reflective materials; luminist approaches to light in American landscape painting; the absence of light; and photographic explorations of light and shadow.

The exhibition is on view through April 4, 2021. 

Smith, who was born in 1972, creates light-based installations that explore the relationships between light, color, space and form. His work Flat Torus 4 is one of a series of nine torus-shaped works in which the artist creates a digital display of colored light. A torus is a three-dimensional geometrical form shaped somewhat like a donut. Using computer software and LED lights on a translucent acrylic support, Smith choreographs the precise color, brightness and pace of change of light to create the torus. The artist describes these color-shifting installations as highly specific three-dimensional canvases that he “paints” with light over time. The effect is a mesmerizing display of gradually transforming and undulating rings of colored light.

“Phillip’s site-specific architectural installations are known for reflecting elements of the landscape back to the viewer. Closely tied to those works, Flat Torus 4 uses light and color to create mesmerizing spatial relationships that evoke the ever-shifting nature of our surrounding environments,” said Lauren Applebaum, associate curator of American art at TMA. “This exhibition originated as a celebration of the new acquisition, a gift to the Museum from Richard and Dolly Flasck, and has expanded into an examination of how light is portrayed throughout TMA’s permanent collection.”

Luminous Visions will be anchored by Flat Torus 4 on one wall of Gallery 18 alongside two rotations of works from TMA’s permanent collection. The first rotation will focus on light as it relates to spirituality and will include works by Sanford Gifford, a historic blown glass mosque lamp and more. Rotation two, which opens Jan. 20, explores themes of optics, color theory and capturing the contrast between light and shadow. Works by Fred Wilson, Ansel Adams and Manuel Alvarez Bravo will be featured, among others. Despite their differences, the works will show how light is explored through various mediums and styles.

“We’ve been building the new media collection for some time now and this acquisition allows us not only to expand the narrative of art history with digital media, it also helps us to make connections between contemporary art and the historic collection. In this installation you will see Smith’s work in context with a range of work including a painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, acquired by the Museum in 1913, and a 15th-century Tibetan Buddha sculpture,” said Diane C. Wright, the Museum’s interim director of curatorial affairs and senior curator of glass and decorative objects.

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