The Fussy Eye: Fence of Light

I first saw Carsten Höller’s Neon Circle a few years back at Western Bridge, the now-closed SoDo gallery where collectors William and Ruth True showcased their and others’ art. Now it’s back, the Trues’ gift to the Henry and part of the Ghost of Architecture show curated by Luis Croquer. Before, the Circle was surrounded by a throng with drinks and appetizers in hand. With its glowing, Dan Flavin-esque neon tubes, the piece had a festive air, like something you might encounter at a disco. (In my mind’s ear, there was music at that opening.) Down in the bowels of the Henry, flanked by some two dozen other pieces, the circular enclosure now becomes more austere and forbidding; it gains seriousness in isolation, though you can still step inside the thing. Without the warmth and buzz of a crowd, this Circle becomes a colder work, emanating a blue, almost clinical light. If there’s a link to architecture, it’s the aspect of an unbuilt circular wall—for what purpose can only be guessed; maybe a public urinal?—with the studs in place but no Sheetrock affixed. There’s also a spiral quality to the piece, which measures about 17 feet in diameter; the absence of corners recalls Temple Grandin’s design for calming cattle chutes. Nothing is hidden around the corner in this structure. Perhaps referencing the wave-versus-particle paradox of light, the Swedish artist gives it a shimmering transparency, a suggested solidity that isn’t there. Henry Art Gallery, UW campus, 543-2280, henryart.org. $6–$10. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Thurs.–Fri., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed., Sat., & Sun. Ends Sept. 29.

 
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