Bold Illuminations:
5 Light Art Exhibitions

You enter a room flooded with violet light. For a strange moment, details and depth become non-existent. It’s like stepping into a void of purple. This is how some might’ve experienced James Turrell’s (b. 1943) installation Perfectly Clear (Ganzfeld) at Mass MoCA in 1991. It’s part of a series of Ganzfelds created by the American visual artist to challenge the viewer’s sensory perception. The name refers to “an absolutely homogeneous region of space that covers an observer’s entire visual field”, like the whiteout during a snowstorm. This piece is one example of the power of light to send our senses into disarray. Turrell is one of the biggest names attached to the Light and Space movement, a group of loosely affiliated West Coast artists like Larry Bell and Helen Pashgian who were fascinated by these ideas. Today, we’ve brought together exhibitions from around the world from artists who are interested in the effect of the perception and environment on the viewer, from Luisa Baldhuber’s ethereal settings to Anthony McCall’s solid light.

Luisa Baldhuber: Afterglow | Haus Der Kunst | Until 15 December

Visual artist Luisa Baldhuber’s (b. 1994) installation takes inspiration from the minimalist style of the 1960s Light and Space Movement. The site-specific piece graces the Staff Entrance of the gallery, enveloping those who walk through in a perpetual cycle of sunrise and sunset. It’s a moment of multi-sensory bliss in an overlooked space, a moment of joy for employees on their daily commute. Baldhuber is a student at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich who is interested in the relationship between colour, light, perceptions and space. Here, she creates an illusion of a natural phenomenon, which questions the original architecture of Haus der Kunst and prompts viewers to reconsider the things we see and what we know.

Dan Flavin: Dedications In Light | Kunstmuseum Basel | Until 18 August

Kunstmuseum Basel dedicates this retrospective to one of light art’s foremost luminaries: Dan Flavin (1933-1996). In 1963, the American artist attached a single, industrial fluorescent light tube at a 45- degree angle to the wall of his studio – and called it art. This show focuses on seeing Flavin’s oeuvre in a less familiar context: his works often contain references to specific events in the titles, such as war atrocities or police violence or are dedicated to other artists. We see this in untitled (in memory of Urs Graf), which bathes the inner courtyard of the main building in colourful light every evening. Dedicates in Light examines these narrative strategies and invites audiences on a sensory journey through his unique work.

Anthony McCall: Solid Light | Tate Modern | 27 June – 27 April 2025

Tate Modern will present an exhibition of “solid light” installations by British-born, US-based artist Anthony McCall (b. 1946). An early pioneer of experimental cinema and installation art, the multi-disciplinary creative is known for material film installations where projected light is visibly enhanced using a thin mist to produce solid light forms. These brilliant pieces are a the result of a striking combination of film, sculpture and drawing. Visitors will be invited to interact with each of the four solid light works, offering an unforgettable immersive encounter. Anthony McCall: Solid Light will include film, photography and archive material documenting the breadth of McCall’s extraordinary practice through time. 

Tavares Strachan: There Is Light Somewhere | Hayward Gallery | Until 1 September

This is the first mid-career survey of the New York-based, Bahamian multi-disciplinary artist Tavares Strachan (b. 1979). Strachan is breaking the boundaries of contemporary creativity with the imaginative verve of a true pioneer, whether that involves launching into orbit a gold sculpture of the first Black American in the US space programme or creating his own alternative 3,000-page encyclopaedia. This multifaceted show will focus on the ways the artist highlights key questions of cultural visibility. Dedicated to telling “lost stories,” Strachan celebrates unsung explorers and neglected cultural trailblazers, inviting audiences to engage with overlooked characters whose lives illuminate histories hidden by bias.

James Turrell: Light of the Presence | Gagosian | Until 25 May

“We weren’t made for the midday sun, we were made for twilight. When light is reduced the pupil opens and we can really feel it.” Since the 1960s, American artist James Turrell (b. 1943) has been exploring a variety of perceptual phenomena ranging from sensory deprivation to optical effects. He is considered the “Master of Light” and is known for captivating work within the Light and Space movement. Now, Knowing Light (2007) and Rounded Up (2024) are on display at Gagosian, Athens. These colour-changing pieces generate alternating impressions of flatness and depth, toying with our perception of space. 

Image Credits:

  1. Luisa Baldhuber. After Glow, 2023 Digital Rendering, © Luisa Baldhuber.
  2. Dan Flavin, untitled (to Don Judd, colorist) 1-5, (1987). © Stephen Flavin / 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich. Panza Collection, Mendrisio. Image: Florian Holzherr.
  3. Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone, 1973 during the twenty-fourth minute. Installation view, “Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art 1964-1977”, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2001. Photograph by Hank Graber. © Anthony McCall. Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly, New York/Los Angeles.
  4. Tavares Strachan, You Belong Here, Prospect.3 New Orleans, 2014. (Installation view from Prospect 3 Biennale, New Orleans, LA). Blocked out neon travelling installation on the Mississippi River. 30 ft x 80 ft on 100-ft barge. Courtesy of the artist, photo & video by Joe Vincent Grey.
  5. James Turrell, Rounded Up, 2024. Computer-programmed LED panel and mixed media, 52 x 52 inches (132.1 x 132.1 cm) © James Turrell. Photo: Stathis Mamalakis.