Illumination, Four Ways.

Last week I ran into a couple, or I suppose more specifically four, interesting light situations.

Light situations you say? What does that mean? Just ride with me here for a minute.

During the week I went to a surprise birthday party for a girl that I don’t know via generous tag-along invite. I like a good surprise and always love a birthday, so celebrate I did. Gladly. Side note: the honoree’s name was Princess. Actually, Princess. Prin, for short. As her friend pointed out, this is the PERFECT name for birthdays. Cookie cakes come pre-iced for you – “Happy Birthday, Princess!” – as do helium balloons. Were her parents kind of genius? You be the judge.

Anyway, the surprise occurred at Beekman Beer Garden and Beach Club. What a great concept, besides the obvious problem of combining three non-coexisting ecosystems (garden and beach AND Manhattan). Somehow, miraculously, the bar exists. It’s a cool venue, mostly all out doors – tent, two bars, half uncovered with sand “beach floor,” beach umbrellas, and, most impressive, white, light-up couches. Yes, these anomolies too exist. I’m checking IKEA’s website, but I don’t think I’ll find them. Jokes aside, the lit couches under the city skyline and Brooklyn Bridge make the whole scene a bit fantastical and romantic – as romantic as artificially lit seating can be.

Shift to high-er-brow: The Guggenheim is currently exhibiting a light installation by James Turrell that I visited on last Friday’s rainy afternoon. The exhibit looks like the inside of a beehive, or the inside of the Guggenheim, illuminated with changing shades of soft and bright colors. The effect is mesmerizing and hypnotic. I stood and stared at the lights for a good thirty minutes, I think. Again, some sort of magic in the artificial. This time, less romantic, more calming.

Upon walking out of the Gugge, I crossed into Central Park to look across the Jackie O pond to the skyline opposite. The aforementioned rainy day had produced light gray clouds that still bore lightness. It created everything in greyscale. The water, the boathouse, the gravel, the stone, the skyscrapers. I love a monochrome. Something about the black and white, artificial in nature, is shocking and dramatic and broody.

I walked then to the Whitney museum, another contemporary art space, because why not binge? The Whitney is currently exhibiting “Scrim Veil – Black Rectangle – Natural Light” by Robert Irwin. This is an installation that takes up the whole space of one gallery. It works as a sort of optical illusion – a dark room with a horizontal black line painted on the wall, a veil hung to the same level as the line, and one vertical window streaming in light. The effect is astonishingly disorienting. Is there a veil? Is it a trick? What is real? What is artificial? What is illuminated? I loved the art as changing the entire conception of the space of the room.

So, four illuminations, all illuminating.

Couches, color, monochrome, illusion. Light has a myriad of mutations. The man-made can seem extraordinary and magical, the natural can seem artificial. What is real, I suppose, is the constancy of illumination. And, New York is constantly lit – romantically, fantastically, serenely(?), dramatically, and strangely.

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