A Narrative History of the Lightbulb
March 15 - May 10, 2008
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce the opening exhibition of Catherine Wagner’s recent work, A Narrative History of the Light Bulb.
While in residence at the Baltimore Museum of Industry during the last two years, Catherine Wagner was given access to their 50,000+ collection of historic light bulbs, one of the premier collections of vintage and antique light bulbs in the United States, with lights dating from the early 19th century. The resulting series of photographs, titled A Narrative History of the Light Bulb, embodies both sculptural installation and photography. Wagner creates installations of bulbs that she then photographs with an 8 by 10 view camera in order to record the glass enclosures and the delicate filaments in stunning detail. Wagner’s work has long been noted for its investigation of the dissemination of knowledge and the construction of culture, as well as the role science and technology hold within society.
These works are records of historical light bulb classification as well as narrative landscapes of metaphor-rich objects that borrow from the history of the still life. With a keen eye toward Morandi, Wagner utilizes similar strategies of grouping familiar objects in beautiful, compelling installations. Some are based on scientific indexes, such as Early Tungsten or Carbon Filaments 1900-1910; others are constructed more lyrically, with sensitivity to the implied stories in the groupings of
bulbs. Wagner employs an intuitive approach, cataloging them by color, form, or aesthetic with examples that include an installation of varying blue bulbs entitled, Ode to Yves, and the architecturally based collection entitled Utopia, which evokes notions of ideal cityscapes. Green Energy involves a double entendre: the topical need for our technology to become moresustainable, and also a metaphor for our landscape.
Wagner focuses on the invention and history of the light bulb and its place as a cultural indicator following from her long- term interest in the phenomenon of light as evidenced by past projects such as Cross Sections, Pomegranate Wall (San Jose Museum of Art, 2001,) the installation of Home and Other Stories (a constructed light and photographic installation at LACMA, 1993,) as well as her thirty year career in photography, a medium inherently dependant on light.