Jim Campbell, Exploded View (Commuters), 2011; 1152 LEDs, custom electronics, wire, steel, 62.75 x 44.5 x 36.75 in. (LxHxD); photo by Sarah Christianson.

Jim Campbell's Exploded View: Interactive Chandelier and Cinema Screen

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco
Jim Campbell: Exploded View
November 5, 2011-September 25, 2012

Jim Campbell: Exploded View, conceived for SFMOMA's Haas Atrium, features hundreds of flickering LED lights creating the illusion of figurative images that explore and reflect the human experience. As visitors move through the space, the vantage point alters and the shadow-like figures begin to take shape, blurring the boundaries between image and object. Both abstract and representational, sculptural and image based, Campbell's suspended installation illuminates the atrium like a chandelier as well as function as a cinematic screen when seen from the museum's second-, third-, and fourth-floor landings.

This exhibition marks a significant new step in the San Francisco-based artist's career as Campbell continues his exploration of image resolution and reduction by exploding the image into a three-dimensional form. Exploded View reflects contemporary fascination with 3D technology as much as an interest in the sculptural approach to light objects. It offers the museum visitor a series of different points of view, which include not just the frontal and recomposed perspective, but also the back, side, and even the underside of a moving image. A series of films programmed for this object highlight even further the variability of the perception process. As Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling notes, "When the two sides of the equation, the object and the viewer, move at the same time, a constant reconfiguration of the artistic experience takes place. This process of negotiating space in real time is the most essential quality of Jim Campbell's work."


Since Campbell began to use video in the 1980s, he has created a series of works that explore the boundaries of perception and moving image displays. In many of these, the position of the viewer is central to the perception of the work. Campbell's innovative exploration of image resolution on different scales was most recently experienced in an outdoor work commissioned by The Madison Square Park Conservancy called Scattered Light (2010). SFMOMA's version, designed for indoor experience, similarly features hundreds of LED lights, creating a vibrant light grid suspended within a support structure spanning the space between two columns in the museum's atrium. Following recent installations of the monumental murals of Kerry James Marshall and an interactive light beam by Marie Sester, the public space of the atrium is once more the focus of an artistic intervention addressing the changes of perception as the visitor moves through public space.

Campbell is one of the most internationally renowned media art pioneers living in the Bay Area. SFMOMA first supported him as an emerging artist in the exhibition Bay Area Media (1990) with the inclusion of his interactive work Hallucination (1989), represented in the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection. His interactive installation Digital Watch (1991) is part of SFMOMA's media arts collection and will be on view on the second floor as part of Selected Histories: Twentieth-Century Art from the SFMOMA Collection. In 1996, Campbell was awarded the 1996 SECA Award in Electronic Media and later this winter, Exploded View complements his inclusion in the SECA 50th anniversary exhibition and related publication Fifty Years of Bay Area Art: The SECA Awards.

Jim Campbell, Exploded View (Commuters) (detail), 2011; 1152 LEDs, custom electronics, wire, steel, 62.75 x 44.5 x 36.75 in. (LxHxD); photo by Sarah Christianson.