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The Museum of Contemporary Art

James Whitney "Lapis"

James Whitney "Lapis"

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From: The Museum of Contemporary Art
Limited Edition: 24
Exhibition: Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900
Material: Printed 2-ply vinyl
Dimensions: 35" x 96" (88cm x 243cm)

Hanging Hardware Included


California artist James Whitney experimented with the relationship between abstract art and music theory. This led to several films that offer striking visuals with the power and richness of sound. In his film "Lapis" thousands of colored dots move on the screen, creating a thought-provoking dance for the viewer. 24 banners are now available featuring an image of "Lapis" from MOCALA's "Visual Music" exhibition. Fabulous displayed as a pair.


In 1912, art critic Roger Fry coined the term "visual music" to define the attempts of artists who sought common ground between the disparate experiences of sight and sound. Sound and music seemed to provide the prime example of a perceivable experience that is nonetheless abstract. As modern and contemporary art have grown to incorporate abstract expressions and multi-media, this "visual music" has also grown to incorporate multiple senses through art. The exhibition, "Visual Music" played upon this melding of media and sensual experience. Artist James Whitney's film Lapis (1963 - 66) was a part of this innovative exhibition. James Whitney combined his handmade drawings with newly-invented motion control devices and computer applications to create complex abstract art in motion.

Lapis consists of thousands of points of colored light. The elaborate, hand-drawn dot mandalas constantly move and transform taking the viewer from the simple act of watching a beautiful visual display to the complex consideration of universal relationships. The differences between positive and negative space, the scale of one individual in the vastness of the universe, even evolution and transformation come to mind. All of this is achieved masterfully by Whitney through his visuals, their lyrical nature, and Lapis's raga soundtrack by Ravi Shankar.

These banners show a still of Lapis with the luminescent dotted lines creating a pattern reminiscent of a brightly-colored Spirograph drawing. Light, sound, and color meld in Whitney's intricate patterns. Above and below Lapis on both sides are blue bands that accent the image. On one side, white text above the image reads "Visual" and below the museum name and exhibition dates "MOCA/Grand Avenue Feb 13 - May 22, 2005". On the other side, white text above the image reads "Music" and below "The Annenberg Foundation". The banners were designed to span a city light-post, so hanging a pair side-by-side creates a complete diptych.


These banners were displayed around Los Angeles from February 13 to May 22, 2005 to promote the exhibition Visual Music at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. The exhibition was jointly organized with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC where it was also seen.

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