Inside Oklahoma Contemporary

7 minutes

Art fans will rejoice to hear that Oklahoma Contemporary’s new space finally has opened after COVID-19 quarantine stalled its original March kick-off. Located in Oklahoma City, a couple blocks south of Northwest Thirteenth Street and Broadway Avenue, the silver building designed by Rand Elliott Architects looks like a space castle plucked from the set of a Ridley Scott sci-fi flick. Inside, bright open spaces and an abundant staff welcome visitors.

The first floor houses a cafe, gift shop, and various meeting rooms. The center’s entire second floor currently is occupied by its inaugural exhibition Bright Golden Haze. Borrowing its name from a line in “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, the exhibit consists of works that explore light as a medium. On the third floor, Shadow on the Glare includes photographs and mixed media pieces from local artists like Ryan Red Corn, Nosamyrag (Gary Mason), Keli Mashburn, M.J. Alexander, Marjorie Bontemps, Sam Charboneau, and more. The exhibit, which focuses primarily on the Oklahoma landscape, is intended to be a companion to the main exhibit one floor down.

The entrance to the "Bright Golden Haze" exhibit at Oklahoma Contemporary. Photo by Alex Marks

The entrance to the "Bright Golden Haze" exhibit at Oklahoma Contemporary. Photo by Alex Marks

Visitors can reserve free(!) timed tickets on Oklahoma Contemporary’s website. Only small groups are allowed in the galleries at any given time, so you never need to worry about crowds here. Bright Golden Haze will be on display through January 4, 2021. There are a number of things to see throughout the art center, but for the sake of time and space, I’ll take you through only a few of my personal favorites.

My very favorite installation in Bright Golden Haze is Leo Villareal’s Star Ceiling. Because it’s tucked in its own room alongside the rest of the exhibit it can be easy to miss the entrance, so if you don’t find it, be sure to ask one of the many docents to direct you. As your eyes adjust to the darkness of the long black room, you’ll find seating beneath a sky-like strip of moving stars—or you can just lay on the floor like I did. Above you, the ceiling shifts in churning patterns of hypnotic celestial light. I wanted to lay there for a long time to bask in the outer space glow, and so I did. Villareal, a New York City artist known for his epic, immersive LED installations, created his first version of this 75-foot piece for The Armory Show in New York last fall.

Oklahoma Contemporary, Bright Golden Haze, Leo Villareal, Star Ceiling

Another one of my favorites is Eternal Sun by Tulsa artist Yatika Fields, who was commissioned to create this 6.5 by 13-foot painting specifically for the Bright Golden Haze. Fields’ vivid, swirling landscape blends striking street art aesthetics with the more traditional oil on canvas medium. Fields compares the energetic movement in his paintings to music and often takes inspiration from landscapes he visits while participating in ultramarathons around the world. Check out this articulate artist describing his inspirations, background, and processes here.

The first piece you’ll see on the second floor is Black Glass Eclipse by Icelandic art star Olafur Eliasson. As you enter, the large black, mirrored disc suspended like a pendant a few feet above the floor rotates slowly to reveal amber-illuminated edges that cause the viewer to see only in black and white. As its name suggests, Black Glass Eclipse looks like a blazing eclipse that’s been separated from its native home in the sky.

"Lucky You" by Robert Irwin. Photo by Alex Marks

"Lucky You" by Robert Irwin. Photo by Alex Marks

Thirteen fluorescent tubes emit six colors of light in Lucky You by Robert Irwin. One of the pioneers of the twentieth-century Light and Space Movement in California (Google it), Irwin is best known for his colorful, geometric light installations.

"Golden (Odyssey)" by Teresita Fernandez. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul

"Golden (Odyssey)" by Teresita Fernandez. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul

Another arresting piece is Golden (Odyssey) by installation and sculpture artist Teresita Fernandez. Gold chrome and India ink set against a black wood panel create dramatic contrasts of light and texture.

Certainly the most interactive piece in Bright Golden Haze is Jen Lewin’s Aqueous. This one actually is located just outside the building at Campbell Art Park along Broadway Avenue. Reminiscent of a psychedelic Candy Land game board, paths and circles of platforms of iridescent glass across the lawn invite visitors to admire their color-shifting reflections by day and hop aboard when they light up in neon hues at night. This particular installation will only be on site through October 19, so hurry up and check it out.

Aerial photo of "Aqueous" by artist Jen Lewin in Campbell Art Park, Cloudview drone photo

Aerial photo of "Aqueous" by artist Jen Lewin in Campbell Art Park, Cloudview drone photo

Oklahoma Contemporary is located at 11 Northwest Eleventh Street in Oklahoma City. (405) 951-0000 or oklahomacontemporary.org.

Written By
Megan Rossman

Megan Rossman is Oklahoma Today's photography editor.

Megan Rossman
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