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Conceptual Light: The Bas-Reliefs of Gahae Park
by Robert C. Morgan


Ecstasy in art is not reserved for expressionist aesthetics. It is a condition bound not to a style but to what we once called aesthetic experience—how the viewer receives a work of art, specifically the feeling one obtains through the process of viewing material transformed through light. This applies especially to sculpture—a medium as tactile as it is virtual, as systemic as it is intuitive, a genre given to a plethora of materials, both natural and synthetic. Historically, the pursuit of sculpture has moved in the direction of light, a search for light through form, whether in Neolithic or Paleolithic stone carvings, the bronze Sakyamuni at Kamakura, the carved wood forms of Ursula von Rydingsvard, the video installations of Bruce Nauman, or the neon architecture of Stephen Antonakos. To feel the presence of light in sculpture may elicit an ecstatic experience. While often connected to religion, as in Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa or the Blue Mosque in Isfahan, light may also exist in the realm of secular aesthetics. In the latter case, perception is removed from the spiritual signifier and enters what the late Structuralist Michael Kirby once called “transsensory” experience where, through the artist’s ingenuity, a viewer’s response to an artwork crosses over from perception to conception, from external reality to internal associations. What begins as a visual experience might end as an aural one. This is not to limit the possibility of ecstasy within aesthetics. Rather, it is to suggest that on the surface of aesthetic response, the crossover becomes the primary issue, removed from any specific focus of spirituality.

Space DrawingsRhythm 2, 2008.
Cut aluminum paper and light, 56 pieces, 19 x 19 in. each.


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