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UMFA ARTLandish: Spencer Finch Artist Talk

Written by Staff

World-renowned artist Spencer Finch uses a diverse range of mediums to investigate how history, memory, and sensory perception conflate and mutually influence. Working in painting, photography, and installation, Finch is best known for producing large-scale sculptural installations that filter or transform natural light or create synthetic light effects. Finch attempts to recreate his impressions of natural phenomena and landscapes, leaving his materials visible so that the constructs underlying his optical illusions are laid bare — as in Sunset (Over the Atlantic), (2004), a curving space installed with glass, tiles, and tubes of fluorescent light. “There is always a paradox inherent in vision, an impossible desire to see yourself seeing,” Finch has said. “A lot of my work probes this tension; to want to see, but not being able to.” Finch observes, documents, and studies with scientific precision (often using a colorimeter) the color and light effects of specific locations, much in the manner of Impressionist Claude Monet, whom he considers a significant influence on his work.

Finch created the site-specific installation Great Salt Lake and Vicinity in response to our building, our landscape, and our community. Finch works with light, landscape, and history to consider the power and limits of memory and perception. The artist is perhaps best known for his work Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on that September Morning (2014), the only artwork created for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.

For the UMFA’s G. W. Anderson Family Great Hall, Finch produced his largest-ever Pantone chip installation. His conceptual and labor-intensive process began with a long journey — in this instance, a circumnavigation of Great Salt Lake. Along the way, Finch logged precise measurements of color, and the resulting installation is a colorful sequence of ready-made Pantone color swatches affixed directly to the walls of the Great Hall. Each color chip is hand-labeled in pencil with the name of its original color source — the bark of a tree, the algae in the distance, the wing of a bird. The line of color reads like field notes, a data-driven abstraction of close observation.

To share his private performance with museum and gallery visitors, Finch leans heavily on documentation, a tool that Land artists enlisted in the 1960s and 70s to convey their work from remote locations. Like the non-site works of Land artist Robert Smithson, Finch’s Pantone installation brings a specific landscape into the museum. His process, however, does not disrupt the land or the ecosystems it supports. Instead, he uses color and language to engage our memory and imagination to recreate a journey. By poetically transporting aspects of the outdoors into the Great Hall, Finch’s installation redefines how we experience the museum and our surrounding landscape.

On Friday, March 30, Spencer Finch will speak about his work and Great Salt Lake and Vicinity. View the artwork beginning at 6 p.m. Refreshments at 6:30 p.m. The talk begins at 7 p.m., in the Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium. Click the here for more information.

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