This exhibition begins with two contemporary works that address the nature of light: Anthony Mac Call's installation Line Describing a Cone, (1973), will show a solid light sculpture, directly inspired by the principle of camera obscura, and a diaphragm designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel for the façade of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, which is a hybrid object inspired by the operation of the iris of the human eye but also by the Arab latticework.
Our knowledge about light, about the reason why we perceive objects in color has been the subject of a fruitful exchange of knowledge between East and West since ancient times. The first catoptrics laws were formulated in the 11th century by the great scholar Ibn Al Haytham, in Cairo. His research helped advance the assumptions of antiquity significantly, including Euclid’s and Ptolemy’s assumptions. Al Haytham developed the principle of light radiation and the law of reflection. Later on Descartes, Kepler and Newton, in the 17th and 18th centuries, wrote their treaties about the decomposition of light into a spectrum of pure colors. Finally, Maxwell’s and Einstein’s laws defined the corpuscular theory of light.
Western art of the 20th century has made many radical aesthetic revolutions and, among them, the revolution of abstraction. The psychology of perception, cognitive sciences, and the influence of non-Western cultures have nourished the work of many artists. One of the striking features about color in the art of the 20th century is its "empowerment", especially vis-à-vis drawing and shape. Color is in itself, with its expressive capacity, free from any consideration of truth in relation to the visible world. It releases a unique force of symbolic expression.
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