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Past Exhibitions

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Spencer Finch: The Western Mystery

Apr 1 2017 – Mar 17 2019

Olympic Sculpture Park

PACCAR Pavilion

As the sun slips away and daylight turns into twilight, we become keenly attuned to the shifting colors of the sky and our surroundings.

New York–based artist Spencer Finch has dedicated his practice to the study of light and color and the ways in which we perceive them. At the Olympic Sculpture Park, Finch has installed a nebulous formation of suspended glass panes that are, in his words, “creating a moving abstraction of a sunset, based on actual sunsets photographed from Seattle over Puget Sound. Using ninety square panes of glass of three different sizes and sixteen different colors, the installation straddles the line between abstraction and representation, shifting composition in real time as the panes of glass gently rotate in space.”

Spencer Finch spent many years studying representations of landscape in painting, literature, and poetry. In the 19th century, Impressionist painters studied a single view at different points throughout the day in an attempt to capture the light of outdoor settings, resulting in dramatically different images and moods. Similarly, Finch’s nonrepresentational landscape uses a collection of visual data to create abstraction and abstraction to represent visual data.

Spencer Finch asks, “What if, instead of painting a picture of a place you could re-create the light of a place? If we were as sensitively attuned to the color of light as we are to a convention like perspective, for example, maybe we could have the experience of saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Paris at dusk. . . . There’s the Hudson River Valley on a winter afternoon.’ It’s a way of thinking about how to represent landscape in an unconventional but totally accurate way.”

At the PACCAR Pavilion, Finch calls upon fleeting moments to create the descriptive equivalent of a sunset. Unlike a photograph, the evocation of a sunset in this installation is not fixed. Our experience of Finch’s installation differs depending on the light—subdued or radiant. During sunrise and sunset, this constellation of colored glass doubles the natural event. Ultimately, the sunset is merely a starting point from which the artist explores “optical mixes of light and color, . . . Creating a prismatic experience that will be constantly changing.” Each visit to the Olympic Sculpture Park will bring new insights and appreciation for the subtleties of light as a medium.

Photo: Installation view of The Western Mystery (detail), 2017, Spencer Finch, American, b. 1962, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, Photo: Mark Woods.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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