Spencer Finch to Transform the Morgan Library with Large-Scale Installation of Colored Glass

New York, NY June 2014—American artist Spencer Finch (b. 1962) pursues the most elusive and ineffable of experiences through his work—from the changing water conditions of the Hudson River, in his New York High Line piece, to the color of a sunset outside a Monument Valley motel room, or from the afternoon breeze by Walden Pond to the shadows of passing clouds in the yard of Emily Dickinson’s home. Each embraces his passion for exploring light, time, and perception. 

On June 20, the artist will unveil a new, site-specific, large-scale installation at the Morgan Library & Museum inspired by its great collection of medieval Books of Hours—beautiful, hand-painted works that served as personal prayer books for different times of the day and different periods of the year. Taking advantage of the Morgan’s four-story, glass-enclosed Gilbert Court, Finch will apply films of color to the windows and hang additional glass panes in the center of the Court to create a kind of calendar based on the movement of the sun. “Just as an actual Book of Hours is both functional and decorative,” the artist says, “the installation will function as a calendar recording the sun’s hourly and seasonal changes and also as a purely visual spectacle of light and reflection and color.”

A Certain Slant of Light: Spencer Finch at the Morgan is the fifth in a series of summer installations of contemporary sculpture at the museum. Previous artists working in Gilbert Court have included Mark di Suvero (2010), Xu Bing (2011), Ellsworth Kelly (2012), and Monika Grzymala (2013). The work will remain on view through January 11, 2015.

“Spencer Finch brings to his work an approach that combines the scientific and the artistic, allowing us to consider color and light through the lens of his observational powers and creativity,” said William M. Griswold, Director of the Morgan Library & Museum. “We are delighted that he has looked to our collection and to the architecture of our Renzo Piano-designed building for inspiration in creating this extraordinary installation.”

Finch plans to cover or hang the panes of glass in groupings by month with each having a palette that corresponds to the time of the year. For example, November would be “harvesting” and the colors of the month will be based on the colors of the harvest. The installation also calls for what the artist is identifying as “red-letter days.” Marking secular holidays the artist considers significant—such as Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday on January 4—red-colored glass would align with the sun’s arc across Gilbert Court at noon on these days. The precise measurements required to create the installation at the Morgan are a hallmark of Finch’s work. At the same time, his installations emphasize movement and change, capturing fleeting moments of sublime beauty.

Finch has received numerous commissions in the United States and abroad. His recent work includes Painting Air, an installation made for his 2012 survey at the RISD Museum of Art, in which more than one hundred hanging glass panels of varying reflectivity refract and distort an abstract mural inspired by the colors of Claude Monet's garden at Giverny. The large-scale 2011 Lunar, commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago, harnesses the power of the sun, gathering energy during the day and releasing it at night as a glow of the precise color temperature of a full moon. In The River That Flows Both Ways (2009), on New York’s High Line, seven hundred panes of different-colored glass represent the shades of the Hudson River recorded during a single day. Most recently, Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning (2014), a commission for National September 11 Memorial and Museum, was unveiled in May.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Finch lives and works in Brooklyn. His work can be found in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt.

On view concurrently with A Certain Slant of Light, in the Morgan’s Thaw Gallery on the south side of Gilbert Court, is an exhibition on one of the great French Renaissance illuminators entitled Miracles in Miniature: The Art of the Master of Claude de France. The show includes a miniature Book of Hours created for Queen Claude of France (1499-1524), as well as twelve leaves illustrating the seasons and activities associated with them that were a traditional motif used in Books of Hours.

Public Program


A Conversation with Spencer Finch

Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings Isabelle Dervaux talks with American artist Spencer Finch about his light installations in the Morgan’s Gilbert Court, and his investigations into the nature of light and color.

Friday, June 20, 6:30 pm* 

*The installation of Spencer Finch’s work will be on view until 9 pm.

Organization and Sponsorship

This exhibition is curated by Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings.

This exhibition is made possible in part by a gift from Susanna and Livio Borghese, in honor of Parker Gilbert and in appreciation of his many contributions to the Morgan Library & Museum, with additional generous support from Mickey Cartin; the Charles E. Pierce, Jr. Fund for Exhibitions; James Cohan Gallery; Christopher Scholz and Inés Elskop; Nancy Schwartz; and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.

The programs of the Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan’s private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.

General Information

The Morgan Library & Museum

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