Solid Light. Anthony McCall

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Inside the installation Split Second (Mirror) in Galería Cayón, Anthony McCall (UK, 1946) invites us to submerge ourselves for a moment in a nebulous space between the ethereal and the physical. It is an atmosphere which invites reflection on how the artist can create works thanks to light, smoke and their reflections in a mirror. His art is not conceived simply to be observed but to be inhabited. The gallery space works as a frame and the viewer is the protagonist of the piece or rather, a participant in its reflection.

We step inside a dark room which serves almost as a time tunnel. Horizontal rays of light are projected in rotating movements. With the theatrical smoke emerging from a machine, the whole scene takes on a three-dimensional appearance, creating a sculpture of light. At the back stands a mirror where the viewer can observe themselves reflected and fused with the surrounding space. Here, there are unexpected effects; this work is never the same, with every glance it appears changed, immaterial, mutating.

Not all art is of solid matter

Not every artistic idea needs to take physical form. The immaterial in art is born of intangible elements such as light, smoke, video, sound or the absence of it. This is an invitation for the viewer to plunge into an extrasensory world. 

McCall realised that a fundamental ingredient to achieve volume between the projector and the wall was smoke. At the outset, his works had been projected in old lofts or warehouses full of dust and with the audience smoking. But in a museum space, clean and free of cigarette fumes, the importance of smoke became clear. Nowadays, his installations come complete with a theatrical smoke machine, which is how this artist manages to create “solid light.”

‘Split Second (Mirror),’ immaterial and mutating

McCall’s work starts out as a drawing in the hands of the artist and ends up as an interactive experience for the visitor. In a kind of game with the spectator, the artist encourages us to observe our reflection in the mirror and try to capture light for an instant. As we reach out for the light, we move, so the effects are never the same, however many times we visit the installation. This is his aim and achievement with the piece; there are infinite variations of his work, as many as the number of visitors, as many as the number of movements we make.

We could say, then, that Split Second (Mirror) is a magic box in which we find time passing by, unceasing, unstoppable. In the absence of any outside sounds, is seems like we have stepped into another dimension. A fascinating, immaterial, mutating dimension. You reach out with your fingers and…whoosh! Irresistibly you now form part of a hypnotic game, abducted by McCall’s world of light, space and time.  

Exhibition: Anthony McCall; Slipt Second (Mirror) and other works. From 13 December to 29 February 2020 in Galeria Cayón, Madrid.

Photography: Oscar Rivilla

Translation: Rebekah Jane Rhodes

Music: Dr Symptosizer

Art direction: Oscar Rivilla&Carolina Verd

Photography assistance: Jimena Veiga

Hair&Makeup: Sara Trueba


Main Picture: yellow linen shirt and silver skirt by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada; silver high heels by Pura López courtesy from Finally.

Picture 2 and 3: yellow sweater by American Vintage; pants by It Spain.

Picture 4 and 5: vintage silver dress and white boots.