Olympic Sculpture Park Debuts New Installation by New York-Based Artist Spencer Finch

Installation view of The Western Mystery, 2017, Spencer Finch, American, b. 1962, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation. Photo: Mark Woods.

SEATTLE – Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park presents Spencer Finch: The Western Mystery (April 1, 2017–March 3, 2019), a site-specific installation for the sculpture park’s PACCAR Pavilion. Composed of 90 glass panels suspended from the ceiling, the installation by the internationally celebrated artist creates an overlapping and constantly moving constellation of colors—pinks, purples, oranges, yellows, and blues—based on sunsets photographed from the sculpture park over Puget Sound.

New York–based artist Spencer Finch is renowned for his work exploring the perception of light and color. For this installation, Finch has created an “abstract landscape” from a collection of visual data intricately connected to the atmospheric conditions of the site. In the glass-enclosed pavilion, each viewer’s experience of the work will differ depending on the weather, time of day, and the season. The title of the installation, The Western Mystery, is borrowed from a line of poetry by Emily Dickinson, a major inspiration to the artist. Much like the poet, Finch is interested in concrete perceptions of ephemeral natural phenomena.

The Western Mystery is the latest in Finch’s body of work that features suspended panes of glass. A Certain Slant of Light (2014), created for the glass atrium of New York’s Morgan Library, reflected the colors of the four seasons, and his recent solo show at James Cohan, My business is circumference (2016), included installations inspired by fog, the light of a passing cloud, and the colors he noted during a hike through Yellowstone National Park.

Finch’s best-known commissions include The River that Flows Both Ways (2009), created for the debut of New York City’s High Line park, and Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning (2014), the only work commissioned for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

In 2015, he was a memorable part of the inaugural Seattle Art Fair with his Sunset ice cream truck. Originally created for Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2008 and also presented in New York’s Central Park in 2015, the truck powered by solar panels—delivered an “edible monochrome” with cones of soft serve in colors derived from sunsets.

“Spencer Finch’s radiant work sensitizes us to the subtleties of light and color, rewarding those who look closely and visit often,” says Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Contemporary Art. “Because this work is completely dependent on the light conditions and time of day, each visit to The Western Mystery will be a fresh experience and opportunity to appreciate its complexities.”


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