Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Suzanne L’Heureux reviews White Hot Lamp Black at Southern Exposure in San Francisco.
Southern Exposure’s group exhibition White Hot Lamp Black explores the edges of perception, featuring artists who capture bright lights and deep shadows, fathoming spaces both concrete and infinite (caves and outer space) that test the physical and metaphorical limits of seeing. All of the artists employ research-based practices, allowing the work to be experienced on multiple levels beyond the recurring symbolic themes of light and dark.
Carrie Hott’s video installation, Part One: To Cover (2014), draws upon the artist’s extensive investigations into ways humans have historically experienced and conceptualized darkness and produced light, touching on subjects from blackouts and solitary confinement to deep-ocean whale falls. Abstract images—a flashlight beam lighting a dark path, photographs of dark shapes and rudimentary objects—interspersed with moments of blackness viscerally and poetically evoke the subject matter against the artist’s documentary-style voiceover.
Opposite Hott’s piece, Hillary Wiedemann’s time-lapse video Transit of Venus (2014) captures the bright, almost blinding light from the sun’s path as reflected on a telescope lens. Interestingly, an in-camera glitch causes the reflected light to show up, at times, as total darkness. Dario Robleto’s photographs in Untitled (Shadows Evade the Sun I) and Untitled (Shadows Evade the Sun II) (both 2012) also evoke the celestial while calling into question the reliability of images. What appear to be bright stars in deep space are actually images of concert stage lights taken by fans and methodically collected by the artist. Minimalist presentation strategies add a strong visual coherence to this show. Wiedemann’s Searching for Sol 2411, November 5, 2010 (2014), the most impressive in this regard, presents time-lapse photographs of a sunset over Mars, in a sleek, fourteen-foot light box that resembles a Minimalist sculpture.
Two performances planned in conjunction with the exhibition further build on its themes. Other Half Orbit by Jeremiah Barber with Ingrid Rojas Contreras (which already occurred), and Fathoming a Cave with Hott and musician Laura Steenberge, both explore the edges of perception through investigations into memories and dreams, and sounding and echolocation, respectively.
Despite the fact that some of the work feels swallowed up by Southern Exposure’s generous gallery, the thematic and visual connections White Hot Lamp Black builds across artists, works, and mediums hold strong, resulting in a cohesive show that is both conceptually rich and quite beautiful.
White Hot Lamp Black is on view at Southern Exposure through March 8.
Suzanne L’Heureux is an Oakland-based artist, educator, and curator.