Feature

Spencer Finch: My Business, With the Cloud

Finch's clouds, now on display at the Corcoran Gallery, are less about the physical appearance of a cloud than about the experience of standing beneath one.

Corcoran Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C., through Jan. 23

“At some point, everyone with a scintilla of imagination looks up into the clouds and imagines they see images there,” said Caitlin Fairchild in Washingtonian.com. A similar aesthetic instinct seems to have inspired Spencer Finch to create the series of recent works currently on display at the Corcoran. The artist’s collages, many of which are made using Scotch tape, “illustrate the translucent and transitional nature of clouds.” For a 2006 series of photographs, The Taxonomy of Clouds, Finch captured images of the sky reflected in puddles on the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y. Hanging from the museum’s grand rotunda is his most impressive work, Passing Cloud, a mass of blue and gray light filters that color the surrounding space. “Casting different shades of blue throughout the room, the ‘cloud’ invites visitors to walk beneath and examine the fluctuations of light.”

Ironically, the best way to “see” Finch’s masterpiece “is to keep your eyes turned away from it,” said Blake Gopnik in The Washington Post. Hold your hands in front of you as you cross the rotunda, “and you see the light on them pass from blue to a sunny yellow-white.” Finch seems to be less concerned with re-creating the physical appearance of a cloud than with approximating the experience of standing beneath or within one. As such, his experiments represent nothing less than a whole new way for artists to look at nature. Sure, “Finch could have given us that cloud by painting it or photographing it, like his great cloud-art predecessors John Constable and Alfred Stieglitz.” Instead, Finch has found a more immediate and imaginative way in which to bring a sense of the airy outdoors into the closed confines of the Corcoran Gallery—providing an excellent example of the kind of ingenuity that makes him “one of the smartest, most original artists working today.”

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