Seeing the light: Oklahoma Contemporary showcases acclaimed artists with new home's first exhibit, 'Bright Golden Haze'
Inscribed in white neon, three words glow with a message in Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center's new Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery.
"I belong here."
"We want people to feel like they belong here, so it's an important piece for us," said Jennifer Scanlan, curatorial and exhibitions director.
"If there's any piece in here that really we're excited for people to take (something) away from it, it's this."
Created by Tavares Strachan, a native of the Bahamas based in New York, the neon statement piece is just one of the dazzling array of works by nationally and internationally renowned artists featured in "Bright Golden Haze," the inaugural exhibition in the nonprofit multidisciplinary art organization's new $30 million home at NW 11 and Broadway.
After 12 years of planning and two years of construction, Oklahoma Contemporary planned to celebrate its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting Friday at its new 4.6-acre campus north of Automobile Alley in downtown Oklahoma City.
"We just have the capacity to do so much more here. It's really exciting," Scanlan said. "I don't think any of these pieces almost would have been possible in the old building."
Seeing the light
With its title taken from the first lyric in the iconic musical "Oklahoma!," "Bright Golden Haze" spotlights contemporary works exploring the medium and manifestations of light.
"This is the exhibition that first came to me the first time I came to Oklahoma and recognized how beautiful Oklahoma skies are. Then, when I found out that the building (concept) was going to be called 'Folding Light' and was really dealing with this idea of the Oklahoma light and the Oklahoma skies, this seemed like the perfect exhibition to sort of open it up," said Scanlan, who moved to Oklahoma City from New York City in 2016 to join the Oklahoma Contemporary staff.
"We've got an international group of artists here, and all of them are using light in very, very different ways. ... But the building is the first piece in the exhibition, as it were."
Established in 1989 at the OKC Fairgrounds as City Arts Center, Oklahoma Contemporary's downtown campus is dominated by its shiny new 54,000-square-foot main facility designed by Oklahoma City's Rand Elliott Architects. The interactive Learning Gallery inside the main exhibition space details how Elliott devised the "Folding Light" concept that allows the exterior to capture and react to sunlight.
The exhibition in the center's second-floor main gallery opens with a literal "Bright Golden Haze": the installation "Black glass eclipse" by Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist now based in Berlin, Germany.
"As it rotates, it turns into this beautiful eclipse, which has been the sort of natural phenomenon that has fascinated people for millennia," Scanlan said.
Oklahoma Contemporary's new main gallery spans 5,800 square feet, compared with the 3,500-square-foot primary exhibit space in its former fairgrounds facility.
"The other way that we've gone up is up," Scanlan said, pointing to the new gallery's soaring ceilings and then indicating Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins' "Untitled (Large Night Sky)."
"(She's) a major international artist. She just had a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So, we're able to work with these kinds of artists and bring these kinds of artists to Oklahoma City for the first time ... because we now have facilities that allow us to display these works."
Native Tulsan Yatika Fields, who is Osage, Muscogee and Cherokee, painted a vibrant, abstracted landscape commissioned by Oklahoma Contemporary for "Bright Golden Haze." On view through Aug. 10, the exhibit also includes California-based duo Doty Glasco's collection of vintage Western travel photographs recreated on translucent silk; Irish artist John Gerrard's photographic digital simulation "Farm (Pryor Creek, OK)," which appears to move around Google's rural Oklahoma server center; and digital and interactive art pioneer Camille Utterback's massive motion-detecting installation "Entangled."
NYC-based contemporary art star Leo Villareal traveled to Oklahoma City specifically to configure and code his "Star Ceiling 2," which has its own room in "Bright Golden Haze," said communications director Lori Brooks.
"We talk about surprises around every corner ... and this is a very big surprise," she said.
'Bright Golden Haze'
When: Through Aug. 10.
Where: Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, 11 NW 11.