Burning, Bright: A Short History of the Light Bulb
October 28 – November 26, 2011
545 West 22nd Street, New York
NEW YORK, October 7, 2011—The Pace Gallery is pleased to present Burning, Bright: A Short History of the
Light Bulb, a group exhibition focusing on the incandescent light bulb as both subject and material in the art of the
past century. Burning, Bright, which is organized by Pace London, will be on view at 545 West 22nd Street, New
York, from October 28 through November 26, 2011. The public is invited to attend an opening on Thursday,
October 27, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The exhibition illuminates a recurring fascination with the light bulb by some of the most important artists of the
past hundred years. The show will feature work by Arman, Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Alexander Calder,
Pier Paolo Calzolari, Brian Clarke, Jim Dine, Adrian Ghenie, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Loris Gréaud, Philip
Guston, David Hammons, Jasper Johns, Matt Johnson, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Lee Ufan, Roy
Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Robert Morris, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van
Bruggen, Pablo Picasso, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Robert Rauschenberg, Ugo Rondinone, James
Rosenquist, Jeanne Silverthorne, Kiki Smith, Keith Sonnier, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Robert Whitman, and Zhang
In 1880 Thomas Edison perfected the electric, incandescent light bulb, revolutionizing the way that people lived
around the world. After centuries of relying on the flickering light of lamps or candles, artists had a true alternative
light source by which to work, day or night. During the years that followed, artists progressed from using the light
bulb for its function to addressing it as a subject. The light bulb, with all its modern implications, replaced the
vanitas candle, rays from heaven, and countless other traditional sources of illumination, both literal and
metaphorical. From the center of Picasso’s Guernica and related works to the naked bulbs dangling in Bacon’s
iconic paintings and Man Ray’s black and white photographic explorations, the light bulb took its place in the
pantheon of modern icons as a conflicted symbol of technology, clarity, divinity, and progress.
In the second half of the 20th century, artists again expanded the role of light bulbs, transforming the bulb from
subject matter to medium. Integrated into early Pop combines by Dine and Rauschenberg or used alongside other
everyday materials by the Arte Povera group, light bulbs became a source of physical as well as existential
illumination. Many works included the concept of the material’s lifespan: Gonzalez-Torres’s elegant strings of light
bulbs are allowed to burn out during exhibitions and Morris’s Metered Bulb displays a working light bulb alongside
an electric company meter that monotonously records its energy expenditure. In the work of Tim Noble and Sue
Webster, flashing bulbs reference the lights of signage and advertising, but spell out icons of pop culture instead
of a product.
By turns whimsical – Calder’s Cat Lamp or Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s soft sculpture Broken Bulb – and
contemplative – Johns’s solid bronze Light Bulb or Lee Ufan’s quiet installations – the commonplace object
assumes additional meaning in the hands of the artist. Today, as governments and regulators around the world
move to phase out the incandescent light bulb in favor of more ecologically efficient solutions, Burning, Bright will
document and celebrate the partnership between the light bulb and the artists who distilled their own discoveries
from the simplicity of its form and the revolutionary power of its function.
For more information about Burning, Bright: A Short History of the Light Bulb, please contact the
Public Relations department of The Pace Gallery at 212.421.8987. For general inquiries, please email
firstname.lastname@example.org; for reproduction requests, email email@example.com.