New York

Marian Zazeela

Dia Art Foundation

Marian Zazeela’s The Magenta Lights offers a particularly intriguing point of view, one located in the wondrous realm of spectral energy. She transforms material into pure and intense color sensations, and makes a perceptual encounter a spiritual experience. The Magenta Lights is an environmental piece in every sense of the word.

The high, wide and handsome space of the former New York Mercantile Exchange Trading Floor, a landmark example of 19th-century American public architecture, with its massive standing columns and a catwalk extending halfway around the room, is totally empty except for a neutral-toned carpet and The Magenta Lights located far above on the ceiling. The work occupies four squares positioned in each corner of the 30-foot ceiling. Inside each square are hung two mobile-like aluminum sculptures of related curvilinear forms. (When viewed from segment to segment the composition appears to echo the shape and properties of the room.) The aluminum mobiles, which are painted white, are hit by a mixture of colored lights that emanates from theatrical lamps with glass filters symmetrically positioned from eight strategic points. Each mobile takes on the color of the portion of the spectrum that is focused on it, while reflecting the remainder in colored shadows. Each square, therefore, presents an ever-changing picture of variously saturated reds and blues as the colored shadows turn toward and away from their complements in. the spectrum. A magenta light pervades the room.

Other special viewing conditions require mention. By the rules of the house, viewers are asked to leave all but the most necessary belongings outside the room; in this category are coats, book bags and shoes. (Of course, the removal of shoes suggests that one is about to enter a holy place.) Upon entering the room through heavy curtains—the curtains are a precaution against unwanted and uncontrolled outside light sources—viewers are also invited to lie down on the carpet, and are thereby encouraged to take a prolonged and contemplative look. From a supine position, even a partial view of the work is mesmerizing since the more one looks the more the mobiles seem to become shadows, and the shadows take on the substantiality of mobiles. Standing and moving, one sees, in a total overview, the highly constructive nature of the piece. There is nothing fuzzy or faded out about the lights. What Zazeela has wondrously represented is the subtle relationship between precision and spirituality.

Ronny H. Cohen