The painter Jules Olitski once said that a work of art is not complete until it is experienced by a viewer. Often, the meaning of an artwork is dynamic, not only shifting over time but also imparting itself differently from one viewer to the next. The knowledge and experience that each individual brings to a work of art affects how the artwork s understood and how that meaning is ultimately felt. Each of the works in this tour that fall under the heading of Perspectives have layers of meaning that unfold gradually. The initial impact of José Parlá’s Amistad América or Jennifer Steinkamp’s EON, two massive works that expand beyond one’s field of vision, can be overwhelming. But through sustained viewing, subtle narrative clues and visual metaphors reveal themselves, creating an ever richer experience. Similarly, in the portraits that comprise Ann Hamilton’s O N E E V E R Y O N E, the sustained focus on tactility and touch fosters an overriding metaphor that relates the work to its location in the Dell Medical School. Simone Leigh’s bronze sculpture Sentinel IV employs a visual symbolism that relates the work to diverse cultures.
In a different manner, the works in the Perceptions tour situate the viewer in immersive experiences that reframe perceptions of color, light, and space. More thoroughly abstract, these works focus on sensory experience, activating the viewer’s visual and kinesthetic responses. In both James Turrell’s Skypace The Color Inside and Joel Perlman’s sculpture Square Tilt, what is not there is as important as what is; the empty center of each work quite literally reframes one’s field of vision. Each evening at sunset, a slowly shifting sequence of colored lights surrounds the open ceiling of The Color Inside. Throughout this meditative experience, one may see the color of the sky shift drastically, as the immersive color inside the space contrasts with the light outside. Tony Smith’s monumental sculpture Amaryllis also emphasizes the contingency of perception. A simple three-dimensional form seems to shift in shape as one walks around it.