Ray Howlett, “New Limit,” 1997

Students in Prof. Siddons’ “Art Since 1960” class had the chance this spring to write about a work of art from the OSUMA collection, featured in the exhibition, “Sharing a Journey.” The assignment entailed looking at a work of art for at least 45 minutes, and to write about their close-looking experience, followed by interpretation. Anthony Corraro wrote about Ray Howlett’s New Limit from 1997. The following text was excerpted from his paper by graduate teaching assistant Michelle Rinard.

Perhaps my primary reason for selecting this piece for analysis was how visually striking it was. It shined brightly on its own pedestal, already outcast from the rest of the gallery due to it being one of the few three-dimensional pieces within them. At first, my interest quickly subsided as the piece began to gain a more aesthetic look, seemingly to be fit for a decoration within a household as opposed to something that warrants intellectual investigation. However, as I walked closer to the piece, it began to move and shimmer in a myriad of different ways. Lines started shifting and colors began to transform within the prism, and the entire composition became something more than a decoration. This abstract sculpture seems to highlight the conceptual idea of infinity. We are given a window of understanding to view it through, but we can never comprehend it in its entirety. The repeating pattern is constrained by both the piece itself as well as our eyes having these boundaries, and though we see this physical representation of endlessness, we cannot see the complete picture.

Ray Howlett, "New Limit," 1997. Glass and electric light, 16 x 7 1/8 x 7 1/8 in. Gift of Martin and Janet Hagan, 05-0029.

Ray Howlett, “New Limit,” 1997. Glass and electric light, 16 x 7 1/8 x 7 1/8 in. Gift of Martin and Janet Hagan, 05-0029.

New Limit demands exploration; as one changes his or her perspective, the information given changes at the same pace. The use of mirrors and lights creates a fantastic repetitive illusion, a pattern that seems to go ad infinitum. This kind of depth is emphasized throughout the entire composition, as the multiple lines throughout the prism seem to never end despite your positioning. There is a glass pyramid within the shape with an opaque layer to create the lines. The outside shape itself is a one way mirror that reflects the glass reflection, which in turn reflects the mirror image. This endless cycle of reflection is shown by the brilliant pattern of the piece.

Howlett, "New Limit," detail. Photograph by Anthony Corraro.

Howlett, “New Limit,” detail. Photograph by Anthony Corraro.

Altogether, the composition is solid as the shape of the outer case draws the eye inward and throughout the piece. As exploration becomes a key element to this sculpture, it is important to not only guide the eye of the viewer but the positioning of the viewer around the object as well. The central plane of the outer case is flanked by the outer planes which hold the endless patterns of the lines, and as these lines shift and change, it effectively brings attention to the entire piece as a whole. Our perspective is put in a spotlight here, and it is guided by our curiosity. As a three-dimensional medium, attention to the audience’s perspective is taken into account.

Howlett, "New Limit," installation view in "Sharing a Journey," Spring 2014.

Howlett, “New Limit,” installation view in “Sharing a Journey,” Spring 2014. Photograph by Anthony Corraro.

A sensational piece at its very minimum, No Limit can also be the study of the human experience within this limited world. The discussions that could be had here can hold as much depth as the reflections of the glass sculpture seem to go, and yet the simplistic form still allows for a leisurely experience.



About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
This entry was posted in permanent collection, student writing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ray Howlett, “New Limit,” 1997

  1. grandawn says:

    I love this piece! It was featured in the Art Dept. office for a while when I started working there, and it was in my sight-line every day. I would, periodically, turn it just a little to see a different view. Seeing this piece was a highlight of every day for me. Great article about this beautiful work.

  2. Hello Ray – I have been thinking about you for the past few years, and finally decided to say hello – love from Susan Weinberg – infinitystudio@aol.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s