LED lights offer so many practical advantages and are so easy to care for that we can overlook how elegant they actually are. Artists haven’t, however, and they have been developing a completely new form or art using all the creative potential of LED lighting.
Designing with light isn’t new. It has been used extensively in interior design to great effect to create a cosy, intimate feel or an urban, clinical style. But what LED lighting brings to art is versatility. LED artists now have a range of colours to play with, light sequences that can be programmed and LED strips mounted on flexible cables that can be bent to a desired shape.
For architects or artists who use buildings as a canvas to their creations, LED lights offer another advantage: unlike conventional bulbs, LEDs emit little heat, which means that they will be suitable to use with old monuments without the risk of damaging them. The technical barrier to many a work of art has now been removed, and only artists’ imagination is the limit.
A great concern for artists is also that their creations be displayed faithfully. If you work with conventional light, this can be an issue as traditional bulbs deteriorate more quickly and a carefully designed pattern can therefore be ruined easily by the lack of uniformity of brightness or burnt-out lamps. LEDs do offer the evenness of tone and a much longer life cycle that will guarantee that artistic ideas come to life looking exactly like the vision dreamt by the artist.
With all those interesting characteristics, it is no wonder that LEDS are to be found more and more often in art installations, sculptures and interactive artwork all over the world.
American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, for example, is well known for her work with LEDs. She started using them in display signs in the 1980s which led to the installation of the first large-scale LED sign on Times Square’s board in New York in 1982.
Other installations use the technical characteristics of LED lighting to turn them into art: Cell Phone Disco by Informationlab in Pittsburgh, US, is a room-sized construction where Plexiglass panels fitted with thousands of LEDs which are activated by the electromagnetic fields emitted by mobiles phones. This is perhaps the only museum in the world where receiving or making a phone call won’t be frowned upon but rather encouraged!
Leo Villareal, another American artist, has combined computer programming with art. In 2013, he started on an ambitious project involving 25,000 LEDs to be hung on the cables of the bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland Bay. This otherwise unmemorable bridge becomes a thing of beauty at night.
LEDs consume so little power that they don’t actually need more than coin batteries to operate. This makes them ideal for temporary street art such as graffiti as they can be fixed and removed without any damage to walls or properties.
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