Shadow, sculpture of centaur, Tuileries (after Atget), 2007, fluorescent light, fixture, filters, pedestal, 120 x 5 x 5 cm

Spencer Finch »In Praise of Shadows«

Berlin , December 01, 2007 - January 26, 2008

Galerie Nordenhake is pleased to present “In Praise of Shadows” an exhibition with new works by the artist Spencer Finch. Shadows are an always present element of Spencer Finch’s artistic exploration of the psychological and physiological aspects of perception and its limits. His current show at MASS MoCA exemplifies the wide range of ideas and visual modes with which Finch approaches the paradoxical nature of light and colour. The show “In Praise of Shadows”, however, is specifically devoted to the complex world of shadows. The title derives from Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s short 1933 treatise, a meditation on the aesthetics of shadows in Japanese culture, threatened by the omnipresence of electric light: “Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty”, Tanazaki states.

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Finch’s exhibition can be seen as a small visual anthology of shadows. A drawing from 1995 will be exhibited alongside new watercolours, photographs, light installations, and smaller experimental installations that explore the diverse aspects of shadows.  One of the narrow walls alongside the large gallery window is painted in a monochrome grey colour, transporting the viewer to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s house in Weimar. The grey is an accurate chromatic replica of the colour of the shadow cast on a November day in the house where Goethe wrote his “Theory of Colour“ (1810), and where he most likely performed his experiments on coloured shadows. Goethe defined colour as the result of a dynamic interplay between light and darkness. Although Goethe’s theory was rejected in favour of Newton’s purely physical explanation, Goethe’s observations laid the groundwork for colour psychology. 
A sequence of 12 photographs captures the transient shadows cast by a lemon tree over the course of a day. The artist travelled to Spain and took the photos at equal intervals from dawn till dusk to record the revolution of the sun around the tree. The work is inspired by a poem about a barren orange tree, written by Federico García Lorca, which adds a melancholic tone to the delicate photographic renderings and points to the long tradition of ascribing shadows deeper psychological meanings. Lorca’s orange tree invokes a woodcutter to cut away his shadow because it can’t stand the torment of seeing itself in its fruitless silhouette. 

Eugène Atget, master of the photographic conservation of old Paris, is honoured in a light installation in the second room of the gallery. Finch uses colour filters and fluorescent lights to re-create the exact darkness of the shadows cast in the Parisian alleyways that were photographed by Atget around 100 years ago. 
What remains constant in Finch’s work is that he merges dry, scientific methods of measurement and documentation with his subjective creative expression, here demonstrating that shadows are far more than regions of darkness where light is blocked. Rather, they are optical shapes that beckon towards a subjective sublime, reflecting the human condition of never being able to completely know what exists in nature, waiting in the shadows for a stroke of lightning. 

Lemon Tree (Spain, June 27, 2007, 7am-7pm), 2007, 12 inkjet prints, framed 30 x 244 cm

Shadow, wall, Quai Voltaire (after Atget), 2007, fluorescent light, fixture, filters, 120 x 5 x 5 cm

Shadow, column, Louvre (after Atget), 2007, fluorescent light, fixture, filters, 120 x 5 x 5 cm

Shadow, corner, Rue de Nevers (after Atget), 2007, fluorescent light, fixture, filters, 120 x 5 x 5 cm

Shadow, sculpture of centaur, Tuileries (after Atget), 2007, fluorescent light, fixture, filters, pedestal, 120 x 5 x 5 cm

Shadow, under Pont Neuf (after Atget), 2007, fluorescent light, fixture, filters, 120 x 5 x 5 cm

Exactly five in the afternoon (Spain, After Lorca, June 24, 2007), 2007, watercolour on paper, 56 x 72.5 cm and After Auden (Studio Shadow, December 6, 1997, 1:52pm), 1997, watercolour on paper, 56 x 72.5 cm

Shadow (Inside Goethe's Window, November 27, 2007, noon), 2007, paint on wall, dimensions variable

Moon Shadow (Weimar, November 27, 2007, 3am), 2007, inkjet print, 21 x 29.5 cm, and Telekinesis Attempt #3, March 9, 1995, 1995

Telekinesis Attempt #3, March 9, 1995, 1995, spoon, wood, metal, and watercolour on paper, 113 x 77.5 cm

Untitled (Creating a Shadow), 2007, 5 water glasses, water, ink, white paper, dimensions variable