American sculptors Brookhart Jonquil and Paul Myoda both explore the effects of light as their primary medium. So it’s fitting that their works are featured alongside one another at this year’s edition of Artissima, the contemporary art fair in Turin known for its focus on experimentation. It’s an inspired choice by Piero Atchugarry, the Uruguayan gallery that represents both artists. To the booth, Myoda brings interactive, illuminating sculptures from a new series called “Nimbuses,” while Jonquil shows minimal, ethereal “light objects.”
Myoda is well-known for the light sculptures he co-created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In 2001, as a participant in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s World Views Program, he had a studio on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center. Six months after 9/11, he and Julian LaVerdiere erected Tribute in Light, two columns of light beaming up like skyscrapers, not far from where the towers once stood. The installation now reappears in the downtown sky every September 11th.
These days, Myoda lives and works in rural Rhode Island. His latest project, “Nimbuses,” has its roots in historic representations of the nimbus, a luminous cloud that often surrounds a supernatural being or a saint in religious art. Across Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, the ethereal mist assumes different shapes, from circles to squares to hexagons to ovals. Myoda uses technology to play with the malleability of this charged symbol, rasterizing sketches into digital images, manipulating them with 2D and 3D design applications, and finally programming the forms to respond to the presence of viewers using infrared sensors.
The results include the Almond Nimbus, Square Nimbus, Circular Nimbus, and sea urchin-like Spines #2 (all 2015). For all of its technical complexity—his materials include aluminum, reflective mylar, high-power LEDs, a motor, and a microprocessor—the highly appealing Borderline Personality Disorder #3 has a pleasantly old-fashioned effect, throwing light and pattern around the room like a kaleidoscope.
While Myoda’s pieces feature all manners of geometric shapes, Jonquil returns again and again to the triangle, using materials like one-way mirrors, fluorescent lights, cement, steel, and cables to create light objects that glow mysteriously from within. “With the light objects,” he says, “I was trying to use as little material as possible, to make the object more out of light than matter, to physically exist as little as possible, so the plexi mirrors are unbacked, just painted, very minimal.” At times, they evoke more self-contained versions of Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light installations, but Jonquil’s works have far more to do with the construction of his objects, and the way light interacts with his other materials. He seems just as interested in shadows as he is in reflection and illumination—in the way that light can possess materiality.
What stands out most here, between the work of both Myoda and Jonquil, is how wildly different the effects of light can be, from the ethereal to the substantive. It’s a boundary-pushing mini-exhibition, even for an art fair dedicated to experimentation.
Piero Atchugarry’s booth featuring Brookhart Jonquil and Paul Myoda is on view at Artissima, Turin, Nov. 6–8, 2015.