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On View: 'Energy' at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena

The exhibition studies the beauty of energy and considers how art and science coexist.

October 24, 2010|By Liesl Bradner, Los Angeles Times

The Dettifoss waterfall in northeastern Iceland, the largest waterfall in Europe, is accessible only by a traveling a rough road with no facilities and a view hindered by the fall's powerful spray.

Los Angeles-based artist Rebeca Méndez made this dangerous trek twice to capture the water's mighty display of energy. Her resulting video art installation, "At Any Given Moment, Fall 1," is one striking example of natural and man-made energy sources on display at "Energy" at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Although "beautiful" and "mesmerizing" are words not often used to describe energy, this exhibition reveals the beauty within various energy sources while exploring the contentious nexus of science and art.

"The intersection of art and science really resonates at a place like Art Center," said Stephen Nowlin, director of the school's Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery. "The ancient duality of intuition versus reason and emotion versus intellect is a constant theme analyzed in human endeavor."

The show is anchored by Méndez's two video installations. In "At Any Given Moment Fall 1," a field of lava rocks are set in the foreground against a 17-by-22-foot video projection of the Dettifoss falls, which showcases the powerful force of the rushing water.

"The massive amount of flowing water behaves like magma because of its mass," said Méndez, from aboard a 100-year-old sailboat in the Arctic Circle where she is studying the genesis of form in ice and clouds. "I look for elements in the way they become another material and how they are affected by gravity or light."

"At Any Given Moment, Grass 2 With Burnt Wood," examines organic wind energy as muted purple, red and green grasses create soft rolling wave patterns in the fields of Northern California. The rhythmic motion caught Méndez's attention.

A blue-hued Avatar-like sun is the star of the show. Projected on an 8-square-foot screen in a darkened room is a high-resolution satellite image taken in ultraviolent spectrum of the sun's monthly rotation. The sped-up 12-minute looping video exposes ruggedly beautiful terrain and fountain-like sun flares resembling a glowing oceanic orb.

Several photographs by Richard Barnes from his collection of starlings offer a peek at an alternative energy source created from herding mechanisms. Barnes captured thousand of starlings that descended upon Rome for three months at a time in 2005 and 2006. "Murmur" displays a biblical-like invasion that demonstrates swarm theory as it relates to energy. "They create amazing shapes in the sky that transform instantaneously into energy," said Barnes. "A vortex of energy is released by the birds as they fly around you."

The force of solar energy is captured in pieces of deep sea corals from a mile below the ocean's surface to the man-made Dawn Spacecraft propelling around the asteroid belt.

"Energy" is on display through Jan. 8.

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