Nancy Holt: Holes of Light, 1973
Holes of Light (1973), profound in scale and rigorous in calculation, projects light through circular holes that investigate principles of directionality and shadow. It invites the viewer to circumvent a bisected room activated by shifting intervals of illumination and darkness. The 609.60-cm-wide space is divided lengthwise by a hanging partition wall perforated with a diagonal row of eight 25.4-cm-diameter circular holes. Mounted lights installed on facing walls alternate on and off, shifting light from side to side every 30 seconds. As projected light intersects the dark side of the space, 50.8-cm-diameter ellipses are cast, forming an extended diagonal along the wall. Meanwhile, bright light illuminates the partition’s other side, revealing pencil-traced ellipses on the wall, marking the transitory play of light and shadow. When looking through the partition wall from the lit side, one full circle of light can be seen on the opposite wall, whereas the remaining circles become a graduated sequence of crescents. The circle in Holt’s work conversely frames both presence and emptiness. It references the earth, sun, moon, and human eye, embracing Holt’s emphatic perceptual philosophy as defined by focus, light, and space.
Nancy Holt (1938 – 2014) grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Tufts University, where she majored in biology. Holt is known for her earthworks, public sculpture and installation work. Best known for her large-scale environmental works Sun Tunnel (1973–76, Great Basin Desert, Utah) and Dark Star Park (1970–84, Arlington County, Virginia) her public sculptures are permanently installed in locations across Europe and North America.
In 2010-12 the retrospective exhibition Nancy Holt: Sightlines travelled from Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York to venues in Boston, Chicago, Karlsruhe, Salt Lake City, and Santa Fe, accompanied by a monograph by Alena J Williams (University of California Press). Other notable exhibitions include Nancy Holt: Points of View, Parafin, London (2020), Dia Art Foundation, New York (2018); Nancy Holt: Land Art, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2013); and Nancy Holt: Selected Film and Photo Works, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2013). Her work has been included in major survey exhibitions including Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012-13), and Light Show at Hayward Gallery, London (2013). In 2018 Sun Tunnels and Holes of Light (1973) were acquired by Dia Art Foundation, with the support of Holt/Smithson Foundation.
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