In Hap Tivey's previous solo show at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, his work was dominated by references to Modernist color field painters such as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. But where those artists attempted to articulate sublime tension through tonal shifts in coloration, Tivey emulated those masters using the medium for which he's known: light. Again, Sands of the Ganges, his exhibition of new light sculptures, includes two nods to Rothko, the titles of which cheekily play with that artist's name: A totemic lightbox sculpture is titled "Rothkosky" and a wall-mounted piece is named "Marks No Marks." But the rest of the show signals a departure to more directly representational territory, as Tivey populates his panels—in which LED bulbs backlight subtly painted canvases—with celestial imagery.
In "Galaxy Particles," an electric blue crescent moon hovers in the foreground, while an atmospheric expanse of orange hues drifts behind it. In the muted palette of "Proton," pink orbs seem to rise over a shadowy horizon line into a steel-gray cosmos. Perhaps the most otherworldly quality to these sculptures, however, are the range in the light's color values—from wincingly brilliant to dully shimmering—and Tivey's painterly juxtaposition of them. No wonder, then, that the sea of emerald greens and violet blues in "Miami Moon" effortlessly conjures the luminous play of the aurora borealis.
Although these new works explore a more pictorial side to Tivey's work, what is ultimately mesmerizing about his sculptures is the sheer sensuousness of the light as it filters through the canvas. Mounted on the wall as if they were paintings, they cue a viewer to read them as such. It's a disorienting effect to perceive the sense of movement and instability in these works as the LED bulbs flicker behind the canvases. In abstract and amorphous pieces such as "Sand Grains" or "Wavelength of Speech," the edges of shapes appear almost liquid. One half-expects the forms, like those in a lava lamp, to break apart and reassemble in some inevitably fluid motion. Likewise, the intense bouquet of reds in "Mahakala, Red Again" bursts with palpable warmth, revealing just how expressive and affecting such fundamental compositional elements as color and light can be.