‘Shape of Light’ brings a sense of wonder to Newark Museum

Gabriel Dawe's "Fluxus no. 30" is a site-specific thread sculpture with is at the Newark Museum through Jan. 10.


Gabriel Dawe’s “Plexus no. 30” is a site-specific thread sculpture that is at the Newark Museum through Jan. 10.

To the right is a photograph of “Plexus no. 30,” a site-specific floor-to-ceiling thread sculpture that is part of “The Shape of Light: Gabriel Dawe,” an exhibition that will be at the Newark Museum through Jan. 10. But a photograph can’t really convey what it’s like to view one of Dawe’s pieces in person. As light shines through the brightly colored sculpture, the threads seem to form something that’s solid but also shimmering, or vibrating.

You almost feel like you’re looking at a holographic image and not something real, but “Plexus no. 30” is really just two simple things, thread and light, ingeniously deployed to create a beautiful optical illusion.

“Plexus” means the network of nerves in the body, so this sculpture, which is part of an ongoing series, can be seen as an imagined representation of part of that network. Dawe also sees the work as relating to the Catholic iconography he encountered in churches while growing up, and the way the light streamed into those churches.

This piece, as well as a similarly large and impressive one titled “Plexus no. 31” (the first work in the series that is in a black room), are the centerpieces of the exhibition, which also includes examples of Dawe’s work with embroidery, pins and textile fragments.

In a video made by the museum (see below), Dawe says, about the “Plexus” installations, “It really touches something in people. It gives them a sense of wonder. It kind of bypasses the mind and just goes into a deeper place. I think that’s really gratifying. To me, that’s just what really makes it worthwhile to continue making this work.”

Gabriel Dawe's "Plexus no. 31," at the Newark Museum.

Gabriel Dawe’s “Plexus no. 31,” at the Newark Museum.

That “sense of wonder” might seem like an overstatement, but having felt it myself when I viewed the works, I feel it’s really the truth.

Also, three large drawings by Dawes — colorful and abstract, and again using patterns to create optical illusions — are being displayed in the museum’s atrium. And there are two related exhibitions: “Outside the Lines: Color Across the Collections,” exploring the theme of color in abstract patterns in works from the museum’s African, American, Asian and Decorative Arts collections; and “Chromatic: Minimalism and Color Field Experiments,” featuring works by Mark Rothko, Josef Albers and others from the 1960s and 1970s.

On Oct. 17, the museum will present a “Festival of Color and Light” from noon to 9 p.m. This event is part of the Newark Arts Council’s Open Doors Citywide Arts Festival, which takes place Oct. 15-18, and will include planetarium and film programs, demonstrations and workshops, gallery tours and various family activities. Also, Dawe will speak on “The Shape of Light” from 4 to 5 p.m.

For information on either “The Shape of Light: Gabriel Dawe” or the “Festival of Color and Light,” visit newarkmuseum.org.


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