As our world becomes more complex so does the space we live in and its decorative components. Lighting is not just a functional tool-it can poetically assert moods, as well as shape and establish boundaries. Like pieces of art, lighting fixtures as well can visually convey meaning and expression to our interiors. The classic green and chrome accounting lamp is today something of an iconic relic of simple days gone by. Enter a flood of new lighting possibilities that exist in a nexus between art, design and function.
The roots of contemporary lighting art can be found in the works of Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi, who introduced his Lunars and famous Akari lamps, made of mulberry paper and bamboo, in the forties and fifties. As a pioneering hybrid creator (artist, sculptor, architect, furniture and lighting designer), Noguchi believed that light could be used as a sculptural medium. The curvaceous and geometrically complex shapes of his lamps could aesthetically rival any great Surrealist work of art.
Today's lighting creators exist on different degrees of a scale of diverse media and influences, but they all share one goal: to redefine a space with the form, function and aesthetic quality of lighting.
Romanian designer Andreea Avram Rusu was trained in architecture but became frustrated with what she perceived as a lack of creativity in that industry. Moving into a different medium for inspiration, she began constructing uniquely designed lights in her Brooklyn atelier. Her work, some of which is inspired by sculptor Alberto Giacometti, is subtle and artistic-lines of light shine out of sliver gaps between pieces of wood. The materials she uses also show scope and diversity-everything from earthy Indian rosewoods, mahogany and classic papyrus to modern stainless steel.
"I wanted to make something artistic that people would want to buy for their homes," says Los Angeles based lighting sculptor Beverly Tang. Realizing that the average person might be reluctant to "waste" valuable home space on art, she decided to interweave form and function in her wildly inventive Sublimina lights. Conceptual pieces like the serenely nebulous "Genus Species" (made of mercury neon and Plexiglas) blur the line between artwork and lighting to an extreme, while the aluminum "Spine" series (which comes in rubber or leather) embraces futurism within the familiar parameters of modern design.
The designers of the sleek and minimalist LUMA lights, Stefan Lawrence and Daniele Albright, also come from arts backgrounds. Lawrence, owner of LA furniture and interiors store Twentieth, says of the line, "I'm heavily influenced by art, but to me it's design." The collection is made up of square fixtures that come in three sizes and 18 colors. The lights' simplicity and basic shape make them literally and figuratively, the perfect building blocks for an interior space. Lawrence hopes these 'tools' will bring out the inner-decorator in his clients.
Brooklyn-based light sculptor John Wigmore is greatly influenced by lighting artists like James Turrell and Robert Irwin. His pieces are gentle and ambient, yet seem to dominate a room by sheer force of presence. The serene light box constructions--made of paper, steel and of course light-have adorned the walls and halls of Gwyneth Paltrow and Peter Jennings' residences, as well as those of New York's swank Moomba restaurant. Wigmore uses the same balmy light quality for all his pieces, which set a sanguine tone for a space while drawing the discriminating eye to their own structural beauty.