This spring, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is hosting Electrifying Design: A Century of Lighting, a show looking at the history of lighting design around the world over the past century. It is the first large-scale exhibition in the U.S. to examine international lighting design as a catalyst for technological and artistic innovation.
Since the late 19th century, electric lighting and its accompanying fixtures have become salient features in both domestic and urban life. Finding a lighting fixture for any room is not so much about satisfying a need, but rather a conscious design aesthetic choice. Electrifying Design examines lighting as a crucial part of modern and contemporary design practices through a timeline of the field’s development.
The exhibition examines lighting through three themes (Typologies, The Bulb, and Quality of Light) chosen to reflect function, design, and effect.
As described by scholar Bernd Dicke in a statement, “Lighting is a combination of romantic escapism and decadent aestheticism on the one hand, and reformist zeal with a serious attempt at finding suitable form for the industrial product on the other, distinguishing the discourse between the cult of light and the art of lighting.”
The exhibition takes this dichotomy and blurs it to illustrate the complex response of technological advancement and materialism to ever-changing aesthetic movements.
Electrifying Design was curated by Cindi Strauss, curator of decorative arts, craft, and design at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Sarah Schleuning, senior curator of decorative arts and design at the Dallas Museum of Art.
In a statement to AN, the museum said that the show seeks to establish correct design history’s overlooking of lighting fixtures as design objects, “emphasizing lighting’s role as a primary object, one that responds to advances in technology and materials as well as engages in the development of functional form while remaining true to itself as a representative of changing aesthetic movements. [The exhibit] focuses on the most compelling, innovative, influential, and, sometimes, earliest expressions of a practice by the leading generators of ideas in the field.”
Electrifying Design will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, until May 16 before traveling to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta for a summer exhibition starting in June. Tickets are available for purchase here, on the museum’s website.