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Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
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Arts & Culture

Luminaria 2013 at Instituto Cultural de Mexico

Photo: Bryan Rindfuss, License: N/A

Bryan Rindfuss

Close-up of Cathy Cunningham-Little’s light-refracting sculpture


Click here to see the Luminaria 2013 at Instituto Cultural de Mexico photo gallery.

If you missed Luminaria this year because you were out of town, stayed home because you thought it would be rained out, or just hate crowds, hear this: The party’s over, but a little bit of SA’s annual art blow-out in HemisFair Park lingers on. “Luminaria 2013,” an exhibition filling the ground floor at Instituto Cultural de México, remains on view till April 14. While Luminaria, the event, combines a ton of music and performance along with visual art, the show at the Instituto stays close to the theme of the Nuit Blanche (White Night) art fest in Paris, France, that inspired our festival. It’s all about light. Some of the works have an implied narrative. If you enter through the dark curtains blocking the entryway furthest from the front door, you’ll encounter Kia Neill’s glowing installation hanging from the ceiling like magic fruit in a movie filled with swords and sorcery. It’s fun, and it works; made of LED lights wrapped in paper, with burlap, cut aluminum cans, and Spanish moss mixed in too, the illusion of a dark forest is more successful now that the crowds have left, leaving the light blocks undisturbed, and the room darker. If you saw it during Luminaria, come back.

Outside the closed room is a darkened hallway, the site of a series of pieces by Chicago team Melissa H. Potter and Paul Catanese. The artists embed glowing wire in paper to form rough geometries that have a rune-like quality, and like Neill’s work, hint at story. But whether private symbols or just shapes, it’s the eerie glow that captures one’s attention.

Also from Chicago, Michele Graves has constructed a “breath machine” to meld light and language. Exhale into the contraption’s mouthpiece, and be rewarded with a word projected in light that then travels towards a phrase-filled mural on another wall, changing into a beam that lights up a matching, or complimentary, set of words.

SA’s Cathy Cunningham-Little uses light to explore the act of seeing rather than mime a story, and is known for her light boxes and colored glass hanging sculpture (to see a large, recently installed piece, visit University Health System’s new Robert B. Green Clinical Pavilion). Last year at Sala Diaz she explored light refraction in a small wall piece that cast beams of colored light across the wall. Her room at the Instituto compounds the effect with several similar light-casters, radiating a rainbow of color on three walls. Science can be so freaking cool.

Brooklyn’s Carol Salmanson presents a simple, but disturbingly successful, installation. Made of Plexiglas, vinyl, and lined with rows of tiny LED lights, her 10 boxes are electric minimalism and something disquieting, too. Attached to the walls in a sequence that goes now higher, then lower, the pieces refuse to resolve as a line, or separate into discrete objects. The effect is quite physical — one’s sense of balance is disrupted. Visits to this room tend to be short.

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