Staff Show 2015: Jeff Whitelow

In this series, Assistant to the Education Department Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2015 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through October 4, 2015.

Cousins, August 2015, photograph

Cousins, August 2015, photograph

What do you do at The Phillips Collection?  Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?
I’m a Museum Assistant and also work in the AV department. I enjoy the inside track as far as hearing a lot of the artist talks and guest speakers. We meet artists, tourists, and other museum staff from around the world on a regular basis.

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?
Leo Villareal

What is your favorite gallery/space within The Phillips Collection?
The Rothko Room

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2015 Staff Show (and/or your work in general)?
This is a photo of a photo taken by the Scurlock Studio. The photo is a group shoot that’s displayed in the window of Lee’s Flower Shop at 1026 U Street, NW. I find Whitfield Lovell an influence on this work. This is a picture of my cousin Caroline at a formal. She died of cancer over a decade ago. Her son died of COPD last year. He died in the family home which probably will be up for sale soon. They had the home for about 3 generations. In the face of increasing gentrification, it’s good to preserve the past when you can.

Anything else you would like to share?
The relationship between music and visual art has always been of interest. I might hear some music which makes me wonder what kind of visual image would go with it. This can also work in reverse.

The 2015 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view September 2 through October 4, 2015. The show features artwork from The Phillips Collection staff.

Light Therapy

Leo Villareal, Scramble, 2011

Leo Villareal, Scramble, 2011, Light-emitting diodes, Mac mini, custom software, circuitry, wood, Plexiglas; 60 x 60 in.; 152.4 x 152.4 cm. The Dreier Fund for Acquisitions, 2012. Photo: Sarah Osborne Bender

The cure for winter blues is a good dose of beautiful light. The museums of D.C. are here for you! Find Leo Villareal’s Scramble (2011) on view in our house and his Multiverse (2005-2008) installed in the National Gallery of Art Concourse. The Hirshhorn’s Cube Light (2008) is on display with their Ai Weiwei: According to What? exhibition. 40 under 40: Craft Futures at the Renwick Gallery includes the private light experience that is Nick Dong’s Enlightenment Room (2008). And if neon is what you crave, Nam Jun Paik’s Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii (1995) is a buzzing presence in Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Paik exhibition. Have a seat and gaze forth.

Light and Art: A Glimpse of the Future

Leo Villareal, Scramble, 2011. Light-emitting diodes, Mac mini, custom software, circuitry, wood, Plexiglas 60 x 60 x 8 in. Ed. 2/3, The Drier Fund for Acquisitions, 2012. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. © Leo Villareal, Courtesy of Conner Contemporary. Photo: James Ewing

Leo Villareal, Scramble, 2011. Light-emitting diodes, Mac mini, custom software, circuitry, wood, Plexiglas 60 x 60 x 8 in. Ed. 2/3, The Drier Fund for Acquisitions, 2012. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. © Leo Villareal, Courtesy of Conner Contemporary. Photo: James Ewing

As an intern in the Phillips’s education department, I have handled a variety of tasks, most of which allow for a creative approach or solution. When my supervisor asked me to write about something that interested me for this blog, I saw it as an opportunity to connect my interest in art and museums with my interest in interior design. As I walked through the galleries, Leo Villareal’s Scramble (2011) caught my attention–I stood in front of it, captivated by the changing lights.  As I researched Villareal’s intent and inspiration, I made a connection between his work and a lighting design class I’m currently taking. I was inspired to look at LED lights from both an artist’s and an interior designer’s point of view and became curious about how LED lights affect the art world.

LED (light emitting diode) lights, were created over 50 years ago. What makes this light source different from halogen and incandescent lights is that it is more energy efficient and has a longer lamp life. Therefore, it is a very sustainable product. This is crucial today, when every industry is beginning to strive to be as sustainable and environmentally conscious as possible. At first LED lights were only available in warm colors, such as yellow, red, and orange, but with time new colors were developed, making LED an extremely versatile light source.

So where will this technology go from here? How is it going to affect art and museums? In most art museums, halogen lights are used in gallery spaces, but with the improvement of LED lights and their energy efficiency, long lamp life, and high color rendering index, LED lighting has been tested and is being considered as an alternative source for museum lighting. One of the biggest concerns in changing lighting in the gallery spaces of museums is the effects it will have on the artwork and the number of hours the art can be exposed to the light before it begins to deteriorate. The Getty Conservation Institute has concluded that LED lights perform slightly better than halogens and will therefore be beneficial in art museums.

Even though these changes are forthcoming, LED lights can already be seen in the work of artists such as Jenny Holzer, Liu Dao, and Leo Villareal. All of these works are installation pieces that cause a sense of awe in the viewer. When asked why he chose to work with light, Villareal explained that while he was getting his master’s degree from NYU in Interactive Telecommunications Programming he realized that he could incorporate light into his work and create an interesting piece with a small amount of information. Scramble pays homage to the work of Frank Stella, who Villareal met at The Phillips Collection. The work is composed of a light box that rapidly changes colors, mimicking the colors found in Frank Stella’s Scramble. Therefore, Villareal’s piece can be understood as a contemporary take on Stella’s work.

LED lights are a new technology that has affected both the medium and the display of art while at the same time adding a sustainable aspect to both.

 Veronica Sesana, Education Undergraduate Intern