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.
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.
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.
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.