There are no errant cords or switches in Jim Campbell’s four works at Hosfelt Gallery. The artist’s pieces, which rely on LED technology, are tightly installed, his degrees in mathematics and engineering from MIT showing only in the precision of his construction. The total effect is poetic and surreal.
Though strung flat against a wall, the geometric spreads of tiny LED bulbs in Taxi Ride to Sarah’s Studio light up and change to represent a pulsing abstract image. Campbell has his viewers walk a line between perceiving this image and merely experiencing it moving in front of them. Elsewhere, in another work, the changing, flickering lights repeat, only now the artist has put them in motion on a three-dimensional scale. Even if one’s eyes have just barely adjusted to the nearly-dark gallery, it’s imperative to find a way through the wall of mesh netting, into a room filled by a tilted plane of evenly spaced, suspended light bulbs. With their innards replaced by gentle LEDs, the room still feels dim despite hundreds of bulbs. Depending on your height and where you choose to stand, the piece gives either the feeling of being high up and just under a pitched, starry sky, or grounded in an alternate, blinking universe.
Outside this room, a small, illuminated red box, wall mounted as a bas-relief, displays a cloudy image that scuds along just under its surface. This too seems like an image blown out to the point of abstraction, and again, one experiences its lazy movement while trying to understand what it might be. Nearby, an old-fashioned slide show clicks loudly through alternating images of scratchy family photos and their nearly whited-out counterparts. When these flash on and stay on they look, for an instant, like nothing. But a closer look reveals white-on-white ghosts of the images that follow. This, along with the red box, are as two-dimensional as it gets in this particular Campbell show, his ninth with Hosfelt.
Though the artist has often worked in the form of flat grids – represented here by Taxi Ride – Campbell recently delved into three-dimensional territory by “pulling apart” two-dimensional work. And this is lucky for us. Campbell’s show is as much an experience, quiet and dark and all-encompassing, as it is a sight to see.
The four works at Hosfelt unintentionally coincide with Scattered Light, which occupies Madison Square Park through the end of this month. As far as an indoor show is concerned, this particular gallery is about as perfect as can be for Campbell’s museum-scale pieces. Hosfelt’s wide-planked dark wood floors and rustic beamed ceilings are a surprisingly appropriate backdrop for the Campbell’s almost bucolic take on technology. The exhibit – as it is correctly called – is truly beautiful.