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Fish Lamps

Monday 11 Nov 2013

Review: Frank Gehry's Fish Lamps

Images: Sian Disson 
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Frank Gehry brings a selection of his latest Fish Lamps to London's Gagosian Gallery 

‘The fish is a perfect form,’ says Frank Gehry of his illuminating collection, currently on display at the Gagosian Gallery in London. WAN was fortunate enough to attend an exclusive preview prior to the opening reception of Fish Lamps in Mayfair last week, attended by the unassuming Gehry on a somewhat blustery evening.

Gehry’s latest school of lamps are a leap ahead of the original Fish Lamps, first commissioned by Formica Corporation in 1983 as an experiment into the use of a new material: ColorCore. This plastic laminate shattered during the design process, inspiring Gehry with its ragged shards, reminiscent of fish scales.

The resulting collection was amassed between 1984 and 1986, with approximately 30 lamps in static poses, retrained by their wooden anchors and electrical wires. The refined shards of plastic laminate ColorCore were glued to wire armatures cast in slithering fish shapes and illuminated from within by hidden bulbs.

In 2012, Gehry revisited his series of Fish Lamps with an edgier eye. The resulting sculptures boast raw edges and a take a more active form, gliding through the air as they would water. Individual sculptures in the full collection range from life-size to grossly outsized, with the five pieces on display at the Gagosian Gallery in London measuring 135 x 152.4 x 152.4cm at the smallest to 244 x 183 x 91.4cm at the largest.

On entering the gallery, the visitor is met to the left by a shoal of eight elements, swirling together in a cloud of tattered scales and shards of light which reflect off the nearby window. Meanwhile, directly opposite the door, four sconces follow one another in a perfect semicircle across the wall. This quartet of lamps (seen left with Gehry) is arguably the highlight of the exhibition.

As the four fish slither across the wall in simulated motion, chinks in their scales permit bubbles of light to escape, splashing across the wall like water, further adding to this imitation of movement. Unlike the original Fish Lamps, the pieces in Gehry’s latest collection do not have eyes, giving them a sense of mystery and an otherworldly quality.

Also gliding across the gallery floor are two creatures on a wooden base and three almost identical fish which appear to be leaping out of the ground. Each of the freestanding sculptures is supported by a wooden structure inspired by Gehry's 2008 pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in London's Kensington Gardens.

Completing the modestly-sized exhibition are two grand sculptures which hang like decadent chandeliers, by far the largest piece in this collection at 244 x 183 x 91.4cm overall.   

The five-strong showcase of Fish Lamps on display at the Gagosian Gallery is truly mesmerising. Each piece becomes strangely lifelike as the lights begin to dim and their illuminated bodies reflect off the floor-to-ceiling windows, giving the collection a festive feel. A visit is highly recommended.

Sian Disson
News Editor

Fish Lamps is on display at the Gagosian Gallery, 17-19 Davies Street, London, W1K 3DE until Saturday 21 December. The gallery is open Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm. 

Key Facts

Status 7 November - 21 December 2013
Value 0(m€)
Were you involved in this scheme?
Gehry Partners LLP

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