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GLOW: Michael Light’s Aerial Views of Los Angeles

Thursday, July 11, 2019 to Sunday, September 8, 2019
Central Library, First Floor Galleries

For the last fifteen years, Michael Light has aerially photographed over settled and unsettled areas of American space, pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, human impact on the land, and various aspects of geologic time and the sublime. A private pilot, he is currently working on an extended aerial photographic survey of the inter-mountain Western states, and in 2007 won a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography to pursue this project. This exhibition features his work in Los Angeles, taking aerial views of the city at night and during the day. His book on the subject, entitled LA Day/LA Night, was released by Radius Books in the Spring of 2011.

San Francisco photographer Michael Light has captured the city’s ethereal light in a series of aerial photographs, created between 2004 and 2016, both during the day and at night. Often pointing his camera directly into the sun, Light dares the viewer to squint, reducing the city below to a sun-bleached terrain bifurcated by freeways, boulevards, and overpasses. At night, Los Angeles’ sprawling grid turns incandescent, a shimmering carpet rivaling the celestial bodies above as it plunges headlong into the platinum surf of the Pacific Ocean. Los Angeles, in Michael Light’s photographs, is both a real place and a metaphor, referencing the artists of California’s famous 1960s Light and Space Movement, while playing on the myriad cultural myths the city has engendered. Viewed from above, it becomes as non-specific as its ubiquitous glare, enabling the viewer to take the temperature of the place as it relates to the solar cycle and the rhythms of nature.

Michael Light received a B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College in 1986 and an M.F.A. in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1993. Concerned with humanity’s changing relationship to its surroundings, he published his first book Ranch in 1993. From 1995 to 2000, Light worked with images from NASA’s Apollo missions to reexamine the manned lunar explorations. Shifting a familiar planetary icon toward a discussion of terrestrial landscape, the sublime, and the permeable boundaries between art and science, the project culminated in 1999 with a book and a museum exhibition, entitled Full Moon. For the past fifteen years, Light has aerially photographed over settled and unsettled areas of North America, pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, and the human impact on the land. A private pilot and 2007 Guggenheim photography fellow, Light is currently working on an extended aerial photographic survey of the arid American West.

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