untitled (to Barnett Newman) two by Dan Flavin
Start your light art tour at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Floor 5, where the first of three iconic works by Dan Flavin is in dedication to the American abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman, a friend of the artist’s who died in 1970. While the optical effects painters achieved can only fool the eye by alluding to movement, Flavin's light waves demonstrate how light is color, color is light, and the interaction of either creates the illusion of dynamism as they play against or in harmony with one another and the environment.
The diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantin Brancusi) by Dan Flavin
In this piece at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Floor 5, Dan Flavin celebrates movement by exploiting the liveliness and speed implied by the diagonal. Searching for a simple object to claim for his art, he realized the potential of the fluorescent bulb as a basic form that could be built upon and indefinitely repeated, Flavin created his iconic diagonal in blue fluorescent light from his sketch of the, "diagonal of personal ecstasy," apparently made earlier.
“monument” for V Tatlin by Dan Flavin
Few artists can boast having explored a single medium, and an unusual one at that, as tenaciously and consistently as Dan Flavin with his signature fluorescent light tubes. This stepped arrangement of cool white fluorescent light is one of his many light "propositions," made up of standardized commercially available materials much like the ready mades by Marcel Duchamp that he admired.
Life Death / Knows Doesn’t Know by Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman's wry wordplay and playful use of neon tubing at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art , Floor 5, subverts our expectations of neon signage, replacing the lexicon of commercial advertising with weighty but contradictory terms: life/death, pleasure/pain, love/hate — intersected by ambiguous sentence fragments that underscore the haphazardness of language itself.
Murmur Wall by Future Cities Lab
To view Murmur Wall, cross Third Street to enter Yerba Buena Gardens and look for the steps leading up to the main entrance of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). Near the west side of the steps, you’ll see an artificially intelligent and dynamic light art sculpture spanning the outdoor wall. Words are harvested from trending search engine results and displayed momentarily on the wall, inviting visitors to view, contemplate, discuss, and debate the randomly selected phrases. Contribute your own “murmurs and whispers” at www.murmurwall.net.
Across Mission Street from YBCA, walk north across the plaza to view the 36 diamond-shaped windows that light the top floor of the metal cube known as the Yud in the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM), one of the most intriguing building designs by the studio led by architect Daniel Libeskind. After dark, stand in the museum’s entrance plaza to take in the dramatic warm light emanating from this symbolic shape overlooking Yerba Buena Lane. With ticketed admission, you can enter the Yud gallery to experience its unique shape during museum operating hours.
Anytime during Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) operating hours (Friday – Tuesday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thursdays: 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.), visitors may view PaRDeS, a stunning light installation embedded in the wall of the Grand Lobby. Its stylized Hebrew letters translate as “orchard” – the connotation is that the orchard can be found on the other side of the wall. Metaphorically then, the sweetness, or fruit, of learning and art can be found inside the museum.
The first major artwork to be commissioned by the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM), this monumental piece is suspended high over the heads of visitors in the museum’s soaring lobby space. The artwork’s steel oval is comprised of antique found objects: world globes, light bulbs, tools such as 19th century apple peelers and blowtorches, and various other materials that suggest the unfolding marvels of the cosmos. Contemplate this massive sculpture in the CJM Grand Lobby during operating hours. (Take time to visit the exquisite CJM museum store and the Wise Sons Jewish Deli also in the lobby.)
Lumina by MADLAB
Make your way back to Third Street and continue south to W SF hotel. Upon stepping into the lobby at the corner of Third and Howard Streets, you can’t miss the vibrant, otherworldly light sculpture. This lustrous mass is reminiscent of a bioluminescent jellyfish, cosmic star clouds and the brain’s neural networks. Look up to appreciate how the sculpture emanates a sense of mystery, as its translucent fiberglass and fiber optic strands draw hotel guests to its vivid core.
Model Art Map by Lisa Gemmiti
Look above the hotel lobby’s illuminated check-in desks to discover a sculptural piece representing The City at night. Using photographs as inspiration, the artist and her team sculpted this light art work with precision and artistic license. The topography was machined with a 2.5x vertical exaggeration to emphasize the changes in grade. Two thousand LEDs in four colors were installed on four circuits in order to set the intensity of each circuit in place. A little fun was added by using red LEDs to represent points of interest in San Francisco, and a single purple LED designated the W Hotel.