Chul-Hyun Ahn's light-box illusions delight the eye

Ghostly images seem to recede into infinity

Arts: museums, literature

January 22, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

If you want to have fun with your eyes, hurry down to C. Grimaldis gallery tonight and spend some time gaping at Chul-Hyun Ahn's amazing show of light-box sculptures.

Ahn, a recent Maryland Institute College of Art graduate whose stunning debut at the gallery last year intelligently freshened the venerable tradition of optical illusion, returns this year with an even more evolved treatment of his earlier ideas.

These mysterious constructions, which operate on the same principle as a set of barbershop mirrors, create the illusion of infinite spaces despite the relatively modest proportions of his pieces, most of which are no larger than a tabletop.

In previous light boxes, Ahn arranged fluorescent tubes inside the boxes in such a way that the image of the tubes was reflected from the front and rear mirrored surfaces of the box.

The trick lay in Ahn's clever use of a one-way mirror to cover the front of the box.

Because one could look straight through the one-way mirror to the mirror at the back of the box, one saw a space that seemed to recede into infinity because the rear mirror reflected the image of the fluorescent lights and its own reflection on the back of the one-way mirror facing it.

In the new pieces, Ahn again uses the one-way mirror to create an illusion of infinite space, but this time he has employed additional mirrors and fluorescent tubes on the sides of his boxes as well.

The result is what appears to be an infinite series of ghost images radiating outward from the center and backward into space. For the viewer, this apparent double movement of the images laterally and front-to-back gives the impression of a perfectly orderly progression through time and space.

It is not too much to say that Ahn's pieces have an almost spiritual quality, much like the light sculptures of James Turrell. But while many of Turrell's pieces require the viewer to enter a darkened space to perceive their effects, Ahn's are fully visible under ordinary room light.

Grimaldis is also presenting a group photography show this month that includes works by James Dusel, Dimitra Lazaridou, Christopher Myers, Alexey Titarenko, Neil Meyerhoff, Leland Rice, Wim Wenders and the Cuban emigre artist known as Gory.

These artists have exhibited in the gallery before, so it is interesting to note how they've developed since their previous forays in public -- particularly Lazaridou's mural-scale night interiors, whose palette has become steadily more subtle over the years, and Meyerhoff's eye-popping panoramic travel photographs from France taken with a 35mm miniature camera.

Wenders has large color photographs from Jerusalem and other urban locales. Rice returns with more from his famous series of graffiti on the Berlin Wall, while Myers offers new black-and-white images from Portugal and Dusel presents pictures from Brazil and Baltimore.

The opening reception for the show is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today. The gallery is at 523 N. Charles St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 410-539-1080.

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