Floor van de Velde: Score for a Color Field

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By Robert Moeller

My icons do not raise up the blessed savior in elaborate cathedrals. They are constructed concentrations celebrating barren rooms. They bring a limited light.
—Dan Flavin

The somewhat awkward formulation put forth by Dan Flavin simultaneously raises and dashes the notion of religiosity in his work. Light, even the fluorescent version, imbues a work of art with a distinct ethereality, whether spreading out from a single candle present within a painting by Rembrandt or through the controlled neon sprawl emitted in any of Flavin’s work.

Floor van de Velde’s exhibition Score for a Color Field at the 17 Cox Street Gallery in Beverly is all about light, and darkness as well. In the small, unlit gallery her simply arranged forms cast an array of disembodied shapes and patterns that produce an upending of the formal space that contains them. Interestingly, too, there is an organizing presence as well that arrives as the viewer begins to process the work, or better, processes the glowing environment created by it.

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Vibrant Divide (detail), 2013, digital acrylic fabrication, fluorescent acrylic & black lights, 92 x 40 x 48 inches.

Vibrant Divide is composed of seven hanging sheets of fluorescent acrylic hung beneath a square of black lights that activate a spray of color within the acrylic. The sheets also reflect one another. That makes it difficult to place any of the individual panels in the piece itself with any certainty. Oddly, despite the visual hijinks the work (which is suspended from the ceiling) is warming and calm. Perhaps it is the symmetry of the panels that produces this meditative quality in the work, even while confounding one’s visual sense of place, and orientation.

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Pattern is Movement, 2012, computer-augmented sculpture; projected surface, still projected image & ledges; 100 x 24 x 80 inches

If a piece like Vibrant Divide cuts through the air above your head, Pattern is Movement is firmly grounded. Five white planks are placed against the gallery wall and an image is projected onto them. The optics here are distinctive. Bending over and around the boards, color, light and shadow shift and move. What’s stationary isn’t and the perceived movement is an illusion, or so it seems. A carefully curated desire to bewilder the viewer is balanced with the tact not to bleed into, say, funhouse territory. Given the immersive quality of the work of art, this sometimes can be difficult ground to tread.

The Rain Room (created by rAndom International, part of the special exhibition EXPO 1: New York) which recently had lines stretched around the city block at MOMA, used sensors to allow people to walk threw the “rain” without getting wet. It was widely panned by critics. The central complaint was that the piece had everything to do with sensation and little to do with art. Astutely, van de Velde sidesteps the “experience” and offers up instead a contemplative and serene quality that is more about ideas than simple sensation.

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Box for Luminous Squares, 2013; 35mm slide box,fluorescent acrylic; 10 x 14 x 3 inches

Again using treated acrylic sheets, this time cut into small squares, Box for Luminous Squares sits in a 35mm slide box. The piece glows like radioactive information, a card catalogue devoted to the very light and patterning with which van de Velde experiments. Indeed, the small case contains the blueprint of ideas that the artist works with on a larger scale elsewhere.

An argument might be made that given the size of the gallery there is too much going on. It is hard to focus on an individual work without fully leaving the orb of another. Editing at some initial juncture might have prevented this, but it is understandable, too, that presenting more rather than less of this remarkable work would seem like a good idea.

Robert Moeller is the website coordinator for Art New England. Floor van de Velde: Score for a Color Field is on view through January 2, 2014 at 17 Cox Street, Beverly, MA



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