Anthony McCall is a pioneering artist in ‘solid light’ installations. His works have been exhibited worldwide and always mesmerizing with the use of natural elements, light, fire and space to create art.
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 changed 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 pioneering 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 a line drawing that shapes the projection of light and makes a sculpture from a light beam. 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.
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:
You and I, Horizontal
Leaving, with Two-Minute Silence
Face to Face
Between You and I
Meeting You Halfway
Face to Face II
Breath (2004) was especially fascinating in how the light was used to create an architectural like enclosure that is 10 meters tall with a 4-meter base.
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 2012 at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, which he dubbed Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture.
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.
Face to Face IV, 2013
A two-projector, horizontal installation. The two volumetric 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.
Crossing the Elbe, 2013
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 speeds. 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.
A two-projector, horizontal installation, this work draws on sound as an integral part of the work structure – the first work with sound silence Landscape for Fire in 1972. Each ‘colonial’ 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 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.
You and I, Horizontal (III), 2007
The first two projectors, horizontally installed, draw on the same syntax as YAIH (I) but simplifies the structure to one pair of exchanges with slower motion overall, and further exploration of the synchronized, staggered doubling first explored in the vertical You and I and Between You and I.
Between You and I, 2006
You and I, Horizontal, 2005
The first two-projector, vertically installed, build 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 that intersects a rotating plane. The scale: 10m tall, with a total projected footprint of approx. 11m x 3,5 m.
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.
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.