Light and Language at Lismore Castle Arts 2021 Update

We are pleased to announce details of our 2021 exhibition partnership with Lismore Castle Arts, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Light and Language launches on March 27, 2021, and is on display through to October 10, 2021. This exhibition presents Nancy Holt’s alongside the artists A.K. Burns, Matthew Day Jackson, Dennis McNulty, Charlotte Moth, and Katie Paterson

This is the first time Holt’s work has been seen with twenty-first-century artists drawing from her legacies. exhibition stretches from Lismore Castle’s gallery spaces, through the ornamental and working castle gardens, into the surrounding everyday life of the town of Lismore.

The six artists in Light and Language pay attention to the structures and perceptions of light and language. At the center is Holt’s room-sized installation Electrical System (1982), presented for the first time in more than three decades. Formed of over one-hundred glowing lightbulbs, Electrical System is an example of Holt’s innovative ‘system sculptures’ that she described as “sculptures are exposed fragments of vast hidden systems, they are part of open-ended systems, part of the world.”

Nancy Holt constantly unpacked systems to reveal how they construct perception. A selection of her early concrete poetry from the late 1960s reveals her interest in the structures of language, as do her 1974 video collaborations with Richard Serra—Boomerang and Match Match their Courage. The photographic series Trail Markers (1969) documents a subjective journey across the high moor of Dartmoor National Park in England following a wayfinding system, and Preparatory Drawing of “Sun Tunnels” (1975) map out the cardinal directions of Holt’s iconic earthwork Sun Tunnels (1973-76). Within the castle grounds and Lismore town are Holt’s Locators that, as she described, are “literally seeing devices” simultaneously focusing, extending, and showing the limits of vision.

The five artists joining Nancy Holt in Light and Language, likewise open questions about perception. Working with sound, sculpture, words and light, each artist has chosen works for the exhibition they feel resonate with their fascinations for Holt’s ideas and artworks.

A series of Katie Paterson’s Ideas thread their way through the gallery. These are short sentences made of silver that allude to potential artworks—in this case, each involving light. Dennis McNulty also works with language, his sculptures having made use of both the distorted sounds from Boomerang and song lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 Atlantic City.

Matthew Day Jackson’s Commissioned Family Photo (2013) comprises eighty-two photographs taken with a camera capable of capturing over a million frames per second. It was designed to record explosions and shockwaves from nuclear detonations; the artist and his family are the only human beings ever to have been photographed by this camera.

A.K. Burns presents an evocative film of a total solar eclipse, shot on 16 mm in an open field in Nebraska in 2017. The work is projected on a large angled screen, amplifying the residue of heavy film grain as well as the entanglement of astronomical phenomena, technology, and representation. In the castle grounds The Dispossessed (2018) stand face-to-face, a pair of sculptures made from mangled and painted chain-link fencing used to mark out site boundaries. Charlotte Moth also pays attention to boundaries, creating two works especially for Light and Language. On the castle grounds a disc sculpture, Blue reflecting the greens (2020) reflecting sunlight hugs a moss covered boundary wall. In the gallery, Millefleur (Lismore) fills a circular tower with hundreds of paper leaves.

Nancy Holt, Electrical System II: Bellman Circuit (1982)
David Bellman Gallery, Toronto, Canada
3/4 in. steel conduit, lighting and electrical fixtures, light bulbs, electrical wire
Length: 55 ft. (16.7 m); Width: 24 ft. (7.3 m); Height: 9 1⁄2 ft.(2.9 m)

© Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at ARS

Archived News

Chapter Two of Tuesday Texts

We are delighted to announce that throughout January and February we will be publishing a second chapter of our Tuesday Text Series as part of our ongoing Scholarly Text Program, which invites thinkers to focus on a single artwork by Holt and/or Smithson.

Research Fellow Announcement: Hikmet Sidney Loe

We are delighted to announce that Hikmet Sidney Loe has been awarded the first of our 2021 Research Fellowships. This Holt/Smithson Foundation program encourages new research on the work, ideas, and creative legacies of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson. 

2021 Research Fellowship Applications

Our Research Fellowships aim to encourage new research on the work, ideas, and creative legacies of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson. Our first Research Fellowship Program launches in 2021 and we are calling for applications. The application deadline is February 1, 2021.