Phillip K. Smith III's 10 Columns of mirrored light forces total immersion

Through the Looking Glass

Phillip K. Smith III's 10 Columns of mirrored light forces total immersion

Located at Bridge Projects in Los, Angeles, 10 Columns is a mirrored light installation that completely immerses the viewer. (Lance Gerber)

Artist Phillip K. Smith III’s site-specific commission 10 Columns is the inaugural show of Bridge Projects, a former roving art salon turned Los Angeles gallery. Located next to a public storage facility near a burgeoning series of art galleries in Hollywood, Bridge Projects has amplified the intensity of the exhibition by keeping its front windows and doors completely opaque. When the viewer steps inside, the glare of California sunshine briefly illuminates what appears to be an otherwise pitch-black room.

Once the door swings shut and one’s eyes adjust to the 7,000 square feet of darkness, the glow of 30 rectangular mirrored surfaces mounted on a series of 10 columns become visible. The slowly shifting colors of the artist’s signature dynamic light program combined with their perpendicular mounting calls to mind not only a desert landscape but a Blade Runner-type dystopia, as well as the joy and terror of our ever-shifting present.

Interior shot of warehouse-like exhibition space with support columns holding light boxes
The showcase changes colors throughout the day. (Lance Gerber)

The illuminating surfaces are mounted at a height of 42-inch each and arranged into three groupings of 10 with three lengths of 16, 26, and 36 inches. The sheer size of the space, together with the surrounding darkness, creates an outsized feeling of immersion and contemplation. Even when seen with a group of people, it becomes easy to wander out to the far edges of the exhibition like a lone desert traveler.

There is no specific beginning or endpoint and the longer one stands in the eerie glow, the easier it becomes to feel unmoored. The lack of signage and explicit directionality makes every viewpoint as valid as the other. Is one witnessing a sunrise or a sunset, a cultural awakening or a catastrophic meltdown? Ultimately, in this constantly changing landscape, the simple act of witnessing becomes its own reward.

10 Columns is on view through February 16, 2020.

Orange light for mirrored light exhibition
(Lance Gerber)