The interplay between light and darkness is a frequently explored topic in art, from Kid Cudi’s stoner paranoia anthem “Day N Night” to Van Gogh’s masterful “Starry Night” painting. It has also inspired visual artists to use actual lights in their work, most notably done by Dan Flavin in his multi-colored light fixture installations. But what happens when you switch one of Flavin’s brilliant pieces off? This kind of hypothetical question is what Lynzy Blair asked herself when she put together Night & Day, a group show currently on display at New York City’s Joseph Gross Gallery. “You lose the aesthetic value if the entire piece of art is completely supported by the light element,” says Blair. “Which is totally fine, but it led me to start considering, ‘How can we encourage artists to produce work that will still maintain the aesthetic integrity without that light element being on?’”
The show that Blair curated features nine artists who work with different mediums, but each piece plays with light, and each one has a distinct viewing experience depending on the time of day it’s seen. Lucinda Grange is a photographer who takes pictures of herself, as well as models, in what look to be precarious positions, like balancing on an I-beam on top of a bridge or standing on a ledge on top of the Chrysler Building. Her photos were printed and mounted on lightboxes, and they are among the only pieces in the show that are illuminated all the time. Blair explains that incorporating Grange’s work also demonstrates that people are capable of the duality showcased by most of the artwork in the show. “She’s this very delicate and docile and unassuming young woman,” says Blair, “and then she shows you some photos and she’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s me. I scaled the pyramids of Giza during wartime.’” Other works in the show include Dave Singley’s illuminated shadow of a panther stalking behind houseplants, and Eric Ruggiero’s photo that was taken in between two tracks of the New York City subway and is framed to give the viewer the impression that they are actually standing in the spot as the trains barrel through.
After giving me a virtual walkthrough of the show, my conversation with Blair turns toward broad ideas about the nature of artwork. I ask her what role, if any, artistic expression has to play in parsing what feels like a daily inventory of tumultuous headlines. “I believe that creativity and expression, and especially art, is right now probably one of the most uncensored and completely free avenues,” she says. She adds that when artists are able to express their thoughts in a genuine way, “It triggers something inside of you that also allows you to kind of turn around and be a little freer in your expression.”
Images courtesy of Joseph Gross Gallery