Steven Rose: For/While (2020.01)

March 14 - June 14, 2020

The moment I saw one of Steven Rose’s gently swaying fluorescent light fixtures, I was intrigued and amused. Transforming a mundane, industrial object of lackluster design into an art object is a long-standing practice in modern art. I sensed, however, that Rose’s use of ready-made materials went beyond humor, irony, or cultural comment à la Marcel Duchamp. The rhythmic movement of his light, its steady, ceaseless swing, hinted at forces greater than were visible.

A “perpetual motion” machine I’d had as a child came to mind—an open frame with five weighted chrome beads suspended in a row. When the first bead was pulled back and released, it struck the next bead, transferring energy along the row until the last bead swung out, then back with equal force in the opposite direction. This demonstrated Newton’s third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I recognized a similarity between this toy and Rose’s light-fixture installation. But to fully grasp what I was experiencing, I needed more context—an extra-aesthetic tutorial. I asked Rose what gave rise to the work. He talked about energy transfer, the force of gravity, and motion he experienced during an earthquake. Once I understood the magnitude of his inspiration, I knew an expanded version had to be created in Brattleboro. I invite you to sit quietly, attune your body and breath to the pulse of the installation, and experience, for a while, that which is both seen and unseen.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

In 2011 a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck Virginia, traveling up the east coast to the Hudson River warehouse where I sat calmly working on computers. Around me I felt the concrete turn gelatinous for a few seconds and then abruptly go back to normal. Alarms sounded, but I could not move. I sat transfixed by the sight above me—a ceiling full of eight-foot fluorescent light fixtures all swaying in concert, end-to-end, in the most orderly manner. This sublime folding of chaos into order by nature has had a lasting impact on me and is central to my ongoing installation series For/While.

— Steven Rose

RELATED EVENTS

Opening of New Exhibits – March 14, Saturday, 3-5 p.m.
Artist Talk: Steven Rose – June 11, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.