It would be safe to assume that Spencer Finch is the only artist who can lay claim to having beamed his brainwaves at Rigel, the star at the foot of the constellation Orion. But what makes the Brooklyn-based artist truly noteworthy is that he is at least as interested in technology – from electromagnetic waves to colorimeters, solar panels to fluorescent lights – as he is in using these tools to create art that makes his audiences feel. Indeed, some of the strongest works in My Business, With the Cloud, the artist’s solo show at Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art (up through January 23), do exactly that – and in such a way that blends intelligence, playfulness, and wit with an intense observation of the natural world.
The show’s much-buzzed about highlight, Passing Cloud, is made from blue, purple, and gray crumpled gel, held together in part with wooden clothespins, and suspended in the museum’s atrium. The cloud recreates the light on the corner of D.C.’s Vermont and L Streets, where in the mid-1860s Walt Whitman would catch glimpses of then-President Abraham Lincoln. Although the two never formally met, “We have got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones,” Whitman wrote in 1863.
Those fleeting glimpses remained powerful for Whitman, and Passing Cloud effectively captures that feeling of admiration from afar, of those one-sided relationships whose power is derived, in part, from never being consummated.