Anthony McCall & 10 of his best solid light works

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Anthony McCall - From front to back, Meeting You Halfway, Breath III, Between You and I, Coupling, installation view of Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2012
Anthony McCall – From front to back: Meeting You Halfway, Breath III, Between You and I, Coupling, installation view of Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2012
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Published: June 13, 2019

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Who is Anthony McCall

Anthony McCall is a pioneering artist in ‘solid light’ installations. His works have been exhibited all over the world and always mesmerizing with by the use of natural elements light, fire and space to create art.

Biography

McCall was born in England in 1946. He studied graphic design and photography at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design in Kent, England from 1964-1968. During his early career, he was a member of the London Film-makers Co-operative1 in the 1970s. This group of artists was changing the art world as they blended aspects of photography, cinema, and sculpture. McCall became notable for outdoor exhibitions that used natural elements, especially fire.

The pioneer work ‘Line Describing a Cone’, 1973

McCall moved to New York in 1973 where he embarked on a series of works dubbed ‘solid light.’ The groundbreaking Line Describing a Cone in 1973, was a first. The work was simple yet fascinating. The work was based on line drawing which shape the projection of light and makes a sculpture from a beam of light. Illusions of 3D shapes are created including ellipses, waves and flat panels. This work has been described as a blend of sculpting and cinema. Viewers of the art also become part of the art as their bodies block the light imaginatively.

Anthony McCall - Line Describing a Cone, 1973, installation view, Musee de Rochechouart, France, 2007
Anthony McCall – Line Describing a Cone, 1973, installation view, Musee de Rochechouart, France, 2007
Photo: Freddy Le Saux

Notable works after McCall’s comeback

McCall took a break from art at the end of the 1970s but came back after 20 years. He revived the ‘solid light series’ only now he had access to digital equipment. He popularized cinematic ‘wipe’ which uses aspects of separating and combining two opposing objects in volumetric objects. Some of these works included:

  • Doubling Back, 2003
  • You and I, Horizontal, 2006
  • Leaving, with Two-Minute Silence, 2009
  • Face to Face, 2013
  • Breath, 2004
  • Between You and I, 2006
  • Meeting You Halfway, 2009
  • Coupling, 2009
  • Face to Face II, 2013

Breath (2004) was especially fascinating in the way the light was used to create an architectural like enclosure that is 10 meters tall with a 4-meter base.

Anthony McCall - Breath (The Vertical Works), 2009, installation view at Hangar Bicocca, Milan, photo Giulio Buono
Anthony McCall – Breath (The Vertical Works), 2009, installation (vertical, single), computer, computer script, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 6 minutes, installation view at Hangar Bicocca, Milan
Photo: Giulio Buono

Anthony McCall - Studies for ‘Breath’, 2009, four works- three drawings, graphite on paper; one pigment print on paper, each 349 x 273 mm
Anthony McCall – Studies for Breath, 2009, four works: three drawings, graphite on paper; one pigment print on paper, each 349 x 273 mm

Important past exhibitions

McCall has also been an active exhibitor around the world. These include the Serpentine Gallery London, in 2007-2008. The Hangar Bicocca, Milan in 2009. McCall’s combined horizontal and vertical works for an exhibition in Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin which he dubbed Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture in 2012.

Anthony McCall - Installation view of Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2012
Anthony McCall – Installation view of Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2012

Conclusion

Anthony McCall continues to push the boundaries of solid light by utilizing slanting beams and projected light from ceiling-to-floor at a 45-degree angle. This is made possible by having originated from two widely separated projectors on the ceiling. The light is then beamed and converged on the floor to create a pinpoint focus. This technique has been seen in works such as Coming About, 2016 and the four-projector installation, Crossing, 2016.

Selected works

Face to Face IV, 2013

A two-projector, horizontal installation. The two volumetrics forms are positioned alongside one another while the projectors point in opposite directions. Because of this reversal, the observer can study the drawing on the wall while simultaneously occupying the volumetric form produced by it. Face to Face IV is focused on the precise moment when the flat drawing is transformed into space.

Anthony McCall - Face to Face IV, 2013, installation view, Dark M*fo 2015, Macquarie Point, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, June 2015
Anthony McCall – Face to Face IV, 2013, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime Movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 24 minutes in two parts, installation view, Dark M*fo 2015, Macquarie Point, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, June 2015
Photo: MONA/Rosie Hastie

Anthony McCall - Face to Face, 2013, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2013
Anthony McCall – Face to Face IV, 2013, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime Movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 24 minutes in two parts, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2013
Photo: Jason Wyche

Anthony McCall - Face to Face, 2013, installation view, LAC, Lugano, 2015
Anthony McCall – Face to Face IV, 2013, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime Movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 24 minutes in two parts, installation view, LAC, Lugano, 2015
Photo: Stefania Beretta

Anthony McCall - Face to Face, 2013, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2013
Anthony McCall – Face to Face IV, 2013, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime Movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 24 minutes in two parts, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2013
Photo: Jason Wyche

Anthony McCall - Face to Face, 2013, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2013
Anthony McCall – Face to Face IV, 2013, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime Movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 24 minutes in two parts, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2013
Photo: Jason Wyche

Crossing the Elbe, 2013

Anthony McCall - Crossing the Elbe, 2013, installation view at Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, Germany
Anthony McCall – Crossing the Elbe, 2013, installation view at Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, Germany

Anthony McCall - Crossing the Elbe, 2013, rendering
Anthony McCall – Crossing the Elbe, 2013, rendering

Meeting You Halfway, 2009

Single-projector, vertical in orientation, this piece is based on a slow, back-and-forth exchange between two identical elliptical cones, which expand and contract at different speed. These two overlapping forms of motion produce shifting interior volumes of space together with the gradual opening up and closing down of the entry apertures.

Anthony McCall - Meeting You Halfway, 2009, installation view of, Gallery Thomas Zander, Cologne, 2012
Anthony McCall – Meeting You Halfway, 2009, installation (vertical, single), computer, computer script, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 15 minutes, installation view, Gallery Thomas Zander, Cologne, 2012

Anthony McCall - Meeting You Halfway, 2009, installation view, Hangar Bicocca, Milan, 2009
Anthony McCall – Meeting You Halfway, 2009, installation (vertical, single), computer, computer script, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 15 minutes, installation view, Hangar Bicocca, Milan, 2009
Photo: Giulio Buono

Leaving, 2009

A two-projector, horizontal installation, this work draws on the use of sound as an integral part of the work structure – the first work with sound silence Landscape for Fire in 1972. Each ‘colonical’ form is based on a single, continuous line that combines the circle, the straight line and the traveling wave. The installation is based not only on a reciprocity between these two forms – one diminishing to nothing while the other grows to full size – but also on the riddle of two contradictory sound sources on opposite sides of the space, and on the structure which draws the elements together to produce moments of complete silence when all motion ceases.

Anthony McCall - Leaving (with Two-Minute Silence), 2009, double installation (horizontal) computer, QuickTime movie file, two video projectors, two audio speakers, two haze machines
Anthony McCall – Leaving (with Two-Minute Silence), 2009, double installation (horizontal) computer, QuickTime movie file, two video projectors, two audio speakers, two haze machines, one cycle : 32 min, edition of 3
Photo: François Doury

Anthony McCall - Sketch for Leaving (with Two-Minute Silence), 2006:2008. Pair of working drawings in a set of 24
Anthony McCall – Sketch for Leaving (with Two-Minute Silence), 2006/2008. Pair of working drawings in a set of 24

You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007

The first two projectors, horizontal installation, it draws on the same syntax as YAIH (I), but simplifies the structure to one pair of exchanges with slower motion overall, and a further exploration of the synchronized, staggered doubling first explored in the vertical You and I and Between You and I.

Anthony McCall - You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, Gallerie Aboucaya, Paris
Anthony McCall – You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 30 minutes in two parts, Gallerie Aboucaya, Paris
Photo: Swann de Oliveira

Anthony McCall - You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK, 2007
Anthony McCall – You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 30 minutes in two parts, installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK, 2007

Anthony McCall - You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK, 2007
Anthony McCall – You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 30 minutes in two parts, installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK, 2007

Anthony McCall - You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2007
Anthony McCall – You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007, installation (horizontal, double), computer, Quicktime movie file, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 30 minutes in two parts, installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2007
Photo: Steven Harris

Between You and I, 2006

Anthony McCall - Between You and I, 2006 Installation view, Peer:The Round Chapel, London, 2006
Anthony McCall – Between You and I, 2006, installation (vertical, double), computer, computer script, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 32 minutes in two parts, installation view, Peer/The Round Chapel, London, 2006
Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Anthony McCall - Between You and I, 2006 Installation view, Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, 2006
Anthony McCall – Between You and I, 2006, installation (vertical, double), computer, computer script, two video projectors, two haze machines, one cycle of 32 minutes in two parts, installation view, Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, 2006
Photo: Blaise Adilon

You and I, Horizontal, 2005

The firs two-projector, vertical installation, this builds on the wipe structure of Exchange and adds a synchronized, staggered, doubling between two parallel forms. The two constituent events are a vertical (standing) cone with flattened sides that slowly expands and contracts; and a vertical, slowly traveling wave which intersects a rotating plane. The scale: 10m tall, with a total projected footprint of approx. 11m x 3,5 m.

Anthony McCall - You and I Horizontal, 2005 Installation view, Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, France, 2006
Anthony McCall – You and I Horizontal, 2005, installation (horizontal, single), computer, Quicktime movie file, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 50 minutes in six parts, installation view, Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, France, 2006
Photo: Blaise Adilon

Anthony McCall - You and I Horizontal, 2005, installation view, EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, 2014
Anthony McCall – You and I Horizontal, 2005, installation (horizontal, single), computer, Quicktime movie file, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 50 minutes in six parts, installation view, EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, 2014
Photo: Hans Wilschut

Anthony McCall - Installation view of You and I, Horizontal, Hayward Gallery, London, 2013
Anthony McCall – You and I Horizontal, 2005, installation (horizontal, single), computer, Quicktime movie file, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 50 minutes in six parts, installation view, Hayward Gallery, London, 2013
Photo: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarak

Doubling Back, 2003

Anthony McCall - Doubling Back, 2003. Installation view, Museo d'arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland, 2015
Anthony McCall – Doubling Back, 2003, installation (horizontal, single), computer, computer script, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 30 minutes in two parts, installation view, Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland, 2015
Photo: Stefania Beretta

Anthony McCall - Doubling Back, 2003, EYE Filmmuseum Amsterdam, 2013
Anthony McCall – Doubling Back, 2003, installation (horizontal, single), computer, computer script, video projector, haze machine, one cycle of 30 minutes in two parts, EYE Filmmuseum Amsterdam, 2013

Anthony McCall - Sketch for Doubling Back, 2003
Anthony McCall – Sketch for Doubling Back, 2003

Long Film for Four Projectors, 1977

A single fifteen-minute sweep of a triangular blade of light through 90 degrees, along a wall, becomes four distinct architectural interventions through the agency of the projector.

Anthony McCall - Long Film for Four Projectors, 1974, Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam, 2013, photo Hank Graber
Anthony McCall – Long Film for Four Projectors, 1974, installation, 16 mm film, black-and-white, silent, four projectors, one cycle of 5 hours 30 minutes in eight parts, Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam, 2013
Photo: Hank Graber

Anthony McCall - Long Film for Four Projectors, 1977, first installed in 1974, photocopy and pencil on paper
Anthony McCall – Sketch for Long Film for Four Projectors, 1977, installation, 16 mm film, black-and-white, silent, four projectors, one cycle of 5 hours 30 minutes in eight parts, first installed in 1974, photocopy and pencil on paper

Line Describing a Cone, 1973

The first of the solid light films. Shown in an empty space, the film consists of the coming-into-being of a three dimensional, projected cone of light in the space between the projector and the wall.

Anthony McCall - Line Describing a Cone, 1973, installed in 2002
Anthony McCall – Line Describing a Cone, 1973, installation (horizontal, single), 16 mm film, black-and white, silent, 30 minutes, installed in 2002
Photo: Henry Graber

Anthony McCall - Line Describing a Cone, 1973, Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland, 2017
Anthony McCall – Line Describing a Cone, 1973, installation (horizontal, single), 16 mm film, black-and white, silent, 30 minutes, Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland, 2017

Anthony McCall - Line Describing a Cone, 1973, Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland, 2017
Anthony McCall – Line Describing a Cone, 1973, installation (horizontal, single), 16 mm film, black-and white, silent, 30 minutes, Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland, 2017

Anthony McCall - Line Describing a Cone, 1973
Anthony McCall – Line Describing a Cone, 1973, installation (horizontal, single), 16 mm film, black-and white, silent, 30 minutes

Other installation photos

Anthony McCall - Solid Light Works, Installation view, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, 2018
Anthony McCall – Solid Light Works, Installation view, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, 2018
Photo: Dan Bradica

Anthony McCall - Solid Light installation, Installation view, Dark M*fo 2015, Macquarie Point, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, June 2015
Anthony McCall – Solid Light installation, Installation view, Dark M*fo 2015, Macquarie Point, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, June 2015
Photo: MONA/Rosie Hastie

All images Anthony McCall/anthonymccall.com unless otherwise noted.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Film-Makers%27_Co-op
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