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Lightworks: From the National Gallery of Australia

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


09 Nov 1993 to 01 Mar 1994


Robert Barry, Aleks Danko, John Dunkley-Smith, Dan Flavin, Edward Kienholz, Joseph Kosuth, Mario Merz, Bruce Nauman, Ian Provest, Robert Rauschenberg, Keith Sonnier, Richard Tipping

Guest Curator:

Michael Desmond

About the exhibition

Lightworks was organised by the National Gallery of Australia, bringing together works from the NGA Collection that used light as their central medium. These works focused on the period between the late 1960s and late 1970s, however there were works created as late as 1992.

The 1960s saw a number of international and Australian artists beginning to experiment with light, going beyond a mere representation of light to actually bring light into the work itself.

Materials that were previously too expensive and/or difficult to source became accessible through developments in technology. Neon and incandescent bulbs in particular became available and affordable. Discotheques also served up electronically amplified music in an atmosphere of flashing and coloured lights, projected slide images, smoke and mirrors, demonstrating the affective potential of artificial light.

While the interest in light and the phenomenology of perception peaked in the late 1960s, artists had accepted the use of artificial light as valid and useful as any other medium.

The works in this exhibition used neon tubing, light bulbs, fluorescent lighting, and television sets to explore ideas about contemporary society.