A Little Sun and a Whole Lot of Light

What would you do with your very own little sun? Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen created this solar-powered LED lamp in an effort to get affordable and reliable light to areas across the globe without electricity. Five hours of charging yields three hours of bright light. Learn more at Phillips after 5 on Feb. 6, where we’ll be screening a short film on the Little Sun Project, and join in on some Twitter trivia for a chance to win one!

The February Phillips after 5 celebrates all things light with the Nordic embassies, from innovative Nordic lamp design to gallery talks on how artists use light in their work to an aurora borealis-inspired light show outside of the museum and in the Music Room. Follow the Phillips on Twitter that evening and answer #NordicLights trivia questions for a chance to win one of five Little Sun lamps (and other fun prizes).

A Scientist’s Perspective on Kirkeby

At last night’s Phillips after 5, Michael Garstang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Sciences provided his perspective on the Kirkeby exhibition. He began his talk by making connections between art and science saying, “Both fields draw upon creativity as the prime motive. . . both are products of infinite, incremental steps, and both must be founded upon a preconceived framework.”

Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 2006. Tempera on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2 in. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, and Berlin

Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 2006. Tempera on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2 in. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, and Berlin

Garstang talked about the infinite process of sedimentation, laying down grain by grain to form layers, strata, and structures in his discussion of this untitled work, which Kirkeby painted in 2006. He interpreted the parallel bands at the center of the canvas as possible “fossilized tree trunks,” citing Kirkeby’s writings on trees in which the artist explains, “I don’t think I have ever drawn a whole tree.” Despite the painting’s framework, Garstang noted that Kirkeby “interrupted the form with discordant shapes juxtaposed with a sphere.” He wondered “Is it detritus? Glacial till? Blue ice?” Like Kirkeby, Garstang was reluctant to interpret the end result saying, “I’ll let you sort this one yourselves.”

Seeing in a New Way

Oskar Kokoschka, Portrait of Lotte Franzos, 1909

Oskar Kokoschka, Portrait of Lotte Franzos, 1909. Oil on canvas, 45 1/4 x 31 1/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1941.

When Lotte Franzos came to see her portrait by Oskar Kokoschka, the artist said “ Your portrait shocked you; I saw that. Do you think the human being stops at the neck in the effect it  has on me? . . . ”

Do you want to know more about what motivated Kokoschka to paint Lotte Franzos the way he did?

A compelling and perceptive view on just that question is in a new book by Eric Kandel, Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, titled The Age of Insight : The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in  Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present.

The Age of Insight book cover

The Age of Insight book cover

Kandel views art through multiple, powerful lenses:  turn-of-the-century Vienna’s cultural mores and psychological insights. Looking back to the early 20th century, Kandel cites the proximity of the Vienna Medical Museum, the Sigmund Freud Museum (in Freud’s former apartment), and the Upper Belvedere museum, which houses a renowned collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele. The Vienna School of Medicine in 1900 led the way to discovering what was beneath the surface of the body just as Freud probed the unconscious. These scientific and psychological explorations were reflected in art. Kandel’s argument absorbs even later discoveries in cognitive science. He writes, “In art, as in science . . . reductionism does not trivialize our perception—of color, light, and perspective—but allows us to see each of these components in a new way.”

Lisa Leinberger, Volunteer Coordinator