Anthony McCall at Luciana Brito, São Paulo

How does meanwhile effect an artwork?

British artist Anthony McCall’s exhibition at Luciana Brito in São Paulo suggests a retrospective of an artist who returned to art-making in the last decade after an over-20 year hiatus. McCall’s reemergence is marked by revisiting and further developing what began as his “solid light” films made in the early 1970s: installations of hazy, darkened rooms with slow-moving beams of light from 16mm projectors.

Meeting You Halfway II, 2009, courtesy of Luciana Brito Galeria, São Paulo

But time is a funny thing. The layers of cinema’s material evolution, and certain artworks produced since, have a temporal gravity that presses down on these works, effecting what their form implies. Today they appear as a precursor to works by artists like James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson that harness, expose and manipulate natural phenomena as a way to create phenomenological experiences. The exhibition has smartly included drawings and studies that reveal a motivation of cinematic deconstruction in addition to their phenomenological leanings, allowing the viewer to ponder the meanwhile.

Line Describing a Cone sketch, 1973, courtesy of Luciana Brito Galeria, São Paulo

McCall’s seminal 1973 piece, Line Describing a Cone is a deconstructive act examining the conditions of film. Distilling the very material of film – projected light and duration – the reductive piece begins with a beam of light, a point, that over the course of half an hour draws a circle on the surface of a wall. An ephemeral, mesmerizing play of optics occurs as flowing particles of haze are drawn out of the shadows, illuminated by the light beam headed towards the screen, thus creating a 3-dimensional sculpture. There is a 4th dimension at work here too, time. We are at the intersection of cinema and sculpture. Experiencing this piece under new conditions, notably, without viewing the work as originally conceived as a filmic audience – from a specific set time, beginning to end – contributes to the shift in emphasis of the work as a cinematic deconstruction to a phenomenological experience.

Meeting You Halfway (II), 2009, (installation view Sean Kelly Gallery, New York), courtesy of Luciana Brito Galeria, São Paulo

Meeting You Halfway (II), 2009, (installation view, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York), courtesy of Luciana Brito Galeria, São Paulo

The 2009 Meeting You Halfway (II) typifies this evolution. As the title suggests, the viewer, the body that meditates the experience of the work, and social interaction come into focus. Our understanding through sensation, which was certainly present in Line Describing a Cone now becomes the subject. Here, experiencing this work in Brazil, the legacy of Lygia Pape and Lygia Clark seep up as a more visceral logic arises. For both light installations in the exhibition, we are beckoned to appease our curiosities, to place our bodies within the body of the work, being and experiencing a multitude – cinema, sculpture, drawing and performance.

You and I, Horizontal, 2007 (installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London), courtesy of Luciana Brito Galeria, São Paulo

McCall’s exhibition Installations and Works on Paper will run through June 18th at Luciana Brito Galeria.