June 16, 2011

Silver Clouds

Click here to view a beautiful Video of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds in Crown Hall at the Illinois Insitute of Technology. The exhibition was sponsored, approved and supported by The Mies van der Rohe Society, The Andy Warhol Museum, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the visual arts and Visual Arts and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image: The Andy Warhol Foundation.

In 1966, the Leo Castelli Gallery hosted a collaborative exhibit between artist Andy Warhol and engineer Billy Kluver. It created an ethereal, joyful atmosphere and challenged traditional expectations of art by mingling with and touching the viewer. Kluver’s knowledge of technology helped bring Warhol’s vision to life. The clouds, filled with helium and oxygen, floated through the gallery on air currents, bumping into each other and into viewers in the space.

This experiential exhibit has been recreated numerous times at museums around the world. I recently came across documentation of an installation at Crown Hall by Mies van der Rohe on the IIT campus. The imagery is magical. It reinforces my belief in interdisciplinary expression, and the power of collaboration.

“As an engineer at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, Kluver saw the importance of interaction between the arts and the sciences. He saw collaboration as an opportunity for engineers to apply their knowledge to a new environment where unusual and unplanned challenges could develop. In 1960, Kluver helped Jean Tinguely create his self-destructing junkyard opus Homage To New York. This collaboration led to others with many of New York City’s premiere artists of the decade, including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Yvonne Ranier, Merce Cunningham, and Andy Warhol. In 1966 a series of collaborative performances between Bell Labs engineers and avant-garde artists titled, 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering formalized Kluver’s involvement with the art world. In 1966 Kluver, Robert Whitman, Fred Waldhauer, and Robert Rauschenberg co-founded, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), which sought to bring together artists and people working with new technologies and materials to generate ambitious projects.

After seeing Silver Clouds at the Castelli exhibition, choreographer Merce Cunningham invited Warhol to adapt the work for a new dance performance. The resulting piece, Rain Forest, premiered in 1968, with choreography by Cunningham, music by David Tudor, set by Warhol, and costumes by Jasper Johns.” edu.warhol.org

I found the Silver Cloud installation at Crown Hall to be especially successful. The light-filled, orthogonal envelope surrounding the balloons, provides the perfect backdrop to read the movement, form and compositions created by these seemingly simple objects. It is truly dynamic and uplifting.




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