Solid Light Works : Anthony McCall

     A pioneer in light art and installation, Anthony McCall’s work exists in the space where cinema, sculpture and drawing overlap. More than three decades since the screening of his ‘solid light’ films, New York is excited to stage a new experience that for the first time brings together his vertical light installations and their horizontal variants under one roof.
     Titled “Solid Light Works, the exhibition, also his first institutional show in New York, has attracted a thousand people to Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn during the opening weekend alone. Blacked out and filled with haze, the grand main hall features McCall’s six immense monumental pieces that each require over 30 feet of clearance from floor to ceiling to display.

McCall, a British national now based in New York, gained public recognition in the mid 1970s with his 'solid light' film series. Beginning with Line Describing a Cone (1973), he staged a volumetric form composed of a beam of projected light slowly evolves in a three-dimensional space.

     “Line Describing a Cone is the most brilliant case of an observation on the essentially sculptural quality of every cinematic situation,” historian P. Adams Sitney describes. McCall regards his works as occupying a place somewhere between sculpture, cinema, and drawing. He seeks to deconstruct cinema by reducing film to its principle components of time and light and removing the screen entirely. The works also shift the relationship of the audience to film, as viewers become participants, their bodies intersecting and modifying the transitory forms.
     “Yes, cinema creates a virtual world, a place that you enter with your eyes and your imagination but not with your physical body. My pieces require that your actual body be there in the flesh, in the present. And active.” McCall says.

Before moving to New York in 1973, McCall studied graphic design and photography at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design in England. He was later a key figure in the avant-garde London Film-makers Co-operative. His earliest films are documents of outdoor performances that were notable for their minimal use of natural elements, such as fire.

At the end of the 1970s, McCall withdrew from making art. Two decades later in 2003, he acquired a new dynamic and re-opened his 'solid light' series, this time using digital projection. He also created a parallel series of vertically oriented works, in which a projector mounted on the ceiling projects directly onto the floor, creating a tall and cone-shaped enclosure.

McCall’s latest NYC exhibition celebrates his cross-disciplinary practice in which film, sculpture, installation, drawing and performance come together. It has also brought back his earlier 16mm films under the spotlight, allowing today’s audience to experience how his work has evolved over time.

Words: Aiko Austin