The emergence of installation artists has certainly changed the face of art. Involving the configuration of installation of objects in a space, installation art presents a unified experience practiced by an increasing number of postmodern artists. Even though sometimes it is a temporary apparatus, installation art draws the viewer, engaging them in multiple ways and making them feel a part of the art. In this manner, art becomes something you can touch, hear, feel or smell. They are installed in art galleries and museums to public squares. The term installation art can be thought of as an umbrella term for 3D works which aim to transform the audience's perception of space. It is believed that installation art developed primarily in the 2nd half of 20th century as both minimalism and conceptual art evolved. This article explores artists who have made unique contributions to installation art and how it can be defined.
Instantly recognizable and immensely iconic, Yayoi Kusama's series of Infinity rooms has caught the imagination of her audience in 1965. She utilizes mirrors as walls and is able to translate the repetition of her earlier artworks in to an art installation, a seemingly endless room carpeted with polka dotted fabric phallic structures. Since 1965, Kusama has created more than 20 distinct Infinity mirror rooms. By tapping into the magic of mirros, Kusama's work is able to trick the senses and create poetic art installations that speak to our most human responses, creating environments for existential contemplation.
A monument to women's history, artist and feminist writer Judy Chicago's - Dinner Party art installation is comprised of a massive triangular banquet table of 39 place settings. There are 13 settings on each side of the triangle, representing the number present at a traditional witches' coven. Each setting is deeply personalized and honors a historical or mythical female figure; including artists, goddesses, academics and activists. The floor on which the table sits honors an additional 999 women, whose names are inscribed in gold on the white tile. Originally a travelling exhibition, the piece was created with the assistance of over 400 volunteers. The installation can now be found in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum's center for Feminist Art.
Beginning in 1994, Los Angeles based artist Jason Rhoades became an installation artist. His first work of installation was comprised of mundane items like cardboard, wood and Styrofoam all painted yellow and assembled to reference the geographical and cultural landscape of Los Angeles. Rhoades, created many more installations during his career, pushing boundaries of social conventions and breaking unspoken rules of public decency
American artist Allan Kaprow's Yard, 1961, signaled a new era in art history. The artist filled the outdoor backyard of New York's Martha Jackson Gallery to the brim with black rubber auto tyres and tarpaper-wrapped forms before inviting willing participants to climb, jump and frolic like children in this giant playground. His iconic installation art opened up a new, sensorial experiences for visitors allowing them to engage in art. Kaprow also introduced improvisation and group participation into his art, taking it closer to the reality of ordinary life. In his words, "Life is much more interesting than art. The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct as possible"
British artist Cornelia Parker's Cold Dark Matter: An exploded view, 1991, is one of the most striking and memorable installation artworks of recent times. To create this work, Parker filled an old shed with domestic junk including toys and tools, before having the entire shed exploded in a field by the British Army. She then gathered together the fragments left behind and suspended them mid-air, as if permanently suspended. When set amidst eerie lighting these once familiar items become abstracted and unrecognizable fragments, while the title 'Cold Dark Matter' further emphasizes a sense of gothic mystery, referencing what Parker calls, "matter in the universe that hasn't yet been measured."
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson designed his impressively ambitious installation artwork - The Weather Project in 2003 for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, replicating the effect of a huge sun emerging through a fine mist. There were low frequency lamps around his artificial sun, reducing all surrounding colors to the magical shades of gold and black. A master of Illusion, Eliasson made his glowing orb from a semi- circle of light which is reflected by mirrored panels on the ceiling that complete the circle. These mirrored panels continued across the entire ceiling, allowing visitors to see themselves reflected as if floating in the sky above them, creating the sensation of hovering weightlessly in space.
Observing the above works of art, we can see that installation art has and will remain one of the most dominating mediums of contemporary art. With advancing technologies, more artists are now focusing on interactive digital installations, and this advancement has opened doors to entirely new possibilities for this genre and it is far more relevant today.
Manesha Pieris (2022)