Go to the MFA and choose a work of art that interests you because of the way it’s made. Try to find something that uses a material in an unexpected manner. Please write down what you think this artwork is about, and research who the artist is and what they use as an inspiration. Additionally, explain what you think the next steps are for you to explore this material further. How would you use this material in your own work? In what form or setting would you use this material?
Christian Boltanski’s Lumiéres (blue square – Sylvie) – incandescent light bulbs and gelatin silver print
This piece by Christian Boltanski uses light bulbs, which he painted blue, and a modified photograph he found at the flea market. This blurred photo of a young girl is reminiscent of a Jewish person in the Holocaust era. The materials create an ethereal, haunting blur that almost prevents the viewer from understanding the piece fully. The image of “Sylvie” has been modified so you can barely see her face, as if it is only the memory of her. You have an idea of what she used to look like, but you can never see all the details in your mind. The cords further block her image, while the blue lights act as a memorial to preserve and highlight memories of the Holocaust with a “heavenly” glow. It creates an area to reflect on the horrific events of the past.
Christian Boltanski is a self-taught sculptor, photographer, painter, and filmmaker. He uses personal experiences or experiences of those close to him as inspiration. He is so inspired by the World War II era because his Jewish father was in hiding at the time. As a result, he often combines memory and photography to blur what is real and what is imagined in most of his pieces.
I found it interesting that Boltanski modified the photo from the flea market using gelatin silver print. I am not familiar with the material, but the transformation it created with the photograph of “Sylvie” truly emphasized that the viewer is not familiar with Sylvie or her history. Gyorgy Kepes (refer to photo below) and Kunié Sugiura also had pieces in the exhibit where they modified photos using gelatin silver print. Both artists also exposed objects to different light sources to leave imprints (memories) and transformed results of the original objects. Though I might not use light bulbs in my own work, I could explore different types of light and how it can affect objects to create memories of them. I am intrigued by the sense of unpredictability and the transformation of familiar materials.
Gyorgy Kepes’ Untitled – photograph, photogram, gelatin silver print with opaque white watercolor
1. Boltanski, Christian. Lumiéres (blue square – Sylvie). 2000. Mixed Media. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.
2. Boltanski, Christian. 1981. Works by Christian Boltanski, MoMA. MoMA | The Collection. Oxford University Press, 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2013. <http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=649>.
Additional Interests from Site Visit:
- Kay Sekimachi’s Amiyose V – woven nylon monofilament, plastic tubing
- Lynda Benglis’ Wing – cast aluminum
- Peter Sacks’ Necessity 8 – mixed media on canvas
- Liliana Porter’s Untitled with Fallen Chairs – acrylic and found objects on canvas
- Ann Hamilton’s Untitled – linen, white horsehair, and thread in maple and glass case
- Gugger Petter’s Bolsjer #1 – woven newspaper and hemp
- Lillian Elliott’s Kurdish Amulet – stitched bark, plaited splints, cotton plain weave, acrylic pigment
- Gyorgy Kepes’ Untitled – photograph, photogram, gelatin silver print with opaque white watercolor
- Kunié Sugiura’s Genealogical Flora Fused – photograph, photogram, gelatin silver print, toned