“Scattered Light/Broken Window”: Madison Square Park, 23rd St. & Fifth Ave., free, extended through March 7
“4 Works”: Hosfelt Gallery, 531 West 36th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, free, extended through March 19
An MIT grad with dual degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics, Chicago-born digital-media artist Jim Campbell has been creating complex light sculptures built around the subjects of perception and memory for more than twenty years. Since October 21, his three-dimensional “Scattered Light” has been dazzling the public on the oval lawn in the middle of Madison Square Park, a twenty-foot-high, eighty-foot-wide hanging grid consisting of nearly two thousand LED lights that depict people passing by in shadows. Although one might assume that it is relaying actual movement — many of his previous works have incorporated live processing — in this case, it is all preprogrammed by computer, adding an extra layer of mystery. Be sure to walk all around the sculpture to get its full impact. “Scattered Light” is supplemented by “Broken Window,” a six-foot-by-six-foot glass-brick wall near the corner of 23rd St. & Fifth Ave. that appears to be a blurry window showing live movement of people and cars making their way through the Flatiron Triangle but is actually composed of previously shot video, and “Voices in the Subway Station,” a series of rhythmically modulated lights on the ground that seem to be holding their own conversation. Campbell’s largest public installation ever — he’s also had commissions in Phoenix, Battery Park, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Berlin, Paris, San Diego, Montreux, and his longtime hometown of San Francisco — “Scattered Light” will remain on view through March 7.
In conjunction with the Madison Square Park installation, Campbell is also having a solo show indoors at Hosfelt Gallery on West 36th St., featuring four new technology-based works from 2010-11 spread around the dark space. “Scattered 17” consists of seventeen LED panels of 192 lights apiece that appear to be jutting out from a black wall but are not as they show what look like birds flying across the lighted rectangles that recall television sets. Visitors can walk into “Tilted Plane,” a room in which 256 doctored LED lightbulbs hang from the ceiling at an incline; although it is fun wandering around the lights, you’ll get a better feel for the piece as a whole by standing in one of the corners. “Taxi Ride to Sarah’s Studio” is composed of one row of wires filled with LEDs that takes you on a short trip through the city; as with “Scattered Light,” look through your camera lens for the best viewing experience. And “Home Movies (Glimpse)” is gimmicky but intriguing, confounding visitors by appearing to click through a series of family slides that include movement within them. The show also includes the red “Reconstruction #9 (Ganges)” next to the office, in which you’ll find the blue and white “Reconstruction #3” and “Fundamental Interval (Tourists),” a plexiglass box of 1,728 LEDs depicting people and ghostly shadows moving through a train station. There’s something innately satisfying in Campbell’s work, especially if you don’t get caught up in the technology and just let the intoxicating, often dreamlike visuals take you away.