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1/1 - Pablo Picasso's 1962 'Still Life Under a Lamp' Pace Gallery and Pace Prints / Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY .

1/1 - Pablo Picasso's 1962 'Still Life Under a Lamp' Pace Gallery and Pace Prints / Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY .

Wall Street Journal Reviews "Burning, Bright" at The Pace Gallery

It's been cast in bronze, stuffed in a jar and painted by the likes of Jasper Johns, Man Ray and Alexander Calder. Introducing one of the art world's lesser-known icons: the light bulb. "Burning, Bright: A Short History of the Light Bulb" casts light on 37 of these efforts, by 32 artists. The exhibition opened last week at the Pace Gallery's 545 West 22nd Street outpost in New York and will end Nov. 26. Artists were among the first to fully embrace the incandescent light bulb as "a beautiful sort of found object," not to mention a nighttime studio aid, when the bulb came onto the commercial market in the late 19th century, says exhibition curator Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst. Sculptor Alexander Calder's "Cat Lamp," from 1928, inserts a shaded bulb into a feline's wiry form. Another early work, "Untitled Rayograph (Light Bulb with Nails)," from 1930, by avant-garde photographer Man Ray, depicts the bulb as a mystical, almost divine object radiating energy and hovering in space. By the mid-20th century, the incandescent bulb "was such a commonplace object that you tended to ignore it," says Stephanie Hanor, director of the Mills College Art Museum in Oakland, Calif. and the organizer of the traveling 2008-'09 exhibition "Jasper Johns: Light Bulb." In the 1960s, Mr. Johns was making metal casts of bulbs, one of which is in the show. "Johns wanted to get us to see" the bulb, Ms. Hanor says. "But it's about the beauty of the object as well—the shape is kind of feminine and it has a sort of lounging feel, depicted on its side. There's something anthropomorphic and sensual about it. Artists were playing with that idea too." In British painter Francis Bacon's 1984 "Still Life—Broken Statue & Shadow," a light bulb suspended from the ceiling illuminates a characteristically nebulous form. Robert Rauschenberg affixed a line of bulbs to a rusted metal arrow in his 1992 "Soaring Dribble Glut," part of a series about greed. Now, of course, the incandescent bulb is dimming, as LED-powered, eco-friendly models replace it. It's a turn of events that Ms. Dent-Brocklehurst hints at with the inclusion of Jeanne Silverthorne's 2007 "Untitled (Bad Ideas)," in which a trash can overflows with silicone sculptures of spent and shattered incandescent bulbs. The duo of Tim Noble and Sue Webster might be toying with this notion as well: Their "Special Edition Silver Dollar," also from 2007, is a 6-foot-tall stainless-steel dollar sign studded with 204 brightly lit, energy-burning orbs.

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