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Spencer Finch: Lunar

October 8, 2011–April 8, 2012
Bluhm Family Terrace

Throughout his career, American artist Spencer Finch has used color and light as primary subjects—and materials—in his drawings, photographs, mixed media projects, and large-scale installations. Best known for exploring ideas about memory and perception, the artist often employs a colorimeter, a device that measures the average color and temperature of light that exists naturally in a specific place and time. With this information in hand, Finch reconstructs the luminosity of the location through artificial means.

For his solo project at the Art Institute, Finch has created a solar-powered “lunar lander module” that uses energy from sunlight to power a geodesic dome–shaped object—a “buckyball” that resembles the carbon molecules named for visionary architect Buckminster Fuller—positioned on top of the lander. Installed on the open-air Bluhm Family Terrace, Lunar will glow during the evening hours the color of moonlight—the exact light measured from the full moon over Chicago in July 2011.

“Like just about everyone, I wanted to make a picture of the moon or, more specifically, of moonlight,” Finch said about the project. “I have always loved nocturnes and the impossible attempts to paint near-darkness in near-darkness. I figured there were probably enough literal pictures of the moon, so I began thinking about the form of moonlight and how it is actually reflected sunlight. This led me to explore the use of solar power to generate the light of the moon. The structure of the lunar module and the buckyball followed in short order—I thought it would be fun to imagine that a lunar module returning from the moon with moonlight on board landed on top of the Art Institute.”


This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago with major funding from the Bluhm Family Endowment Fund. The fund supports exhibitions of modern and contemporary sculpture, which may consist of existing works drawn from the Art Institute’s permanent collection or borrowed from other collections private and public, or new works commissioned specifically for this site. Generous support is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Goldman Sachs, Kenneth and Anne Griffin, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, Donna and Howard Stone, and Melinda and Paul Sullivan.

Spencer Finch. Lunar, 2011. Photo courtesy of the artist and ESAM/Larry Smallwood. © Spencer Finch.