Doug Aitken

star (2008)

Neon lit lightbox
45 inches by 119 inches by 10 inches
Edition of 4

Located in 365 Elevator Lobby, South Wall

Everyone knows the saying, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” But what about words that are also pictures? Do they say more? Less? Something different? These are some of the questions Doug Aitken’s star (2008) invites viewers to ponder.

From across the hall, it is easy to read Aitken’s ten-foot-long word. But “star” refers to many things, from the heavenly bodies twinkling in the night sky to actors and athletes, who shine for different reasons. “Star” is a noun and a verb, a word that describes people and what they do when they become the focus of our attention.

From up close, language fades into the background as viewers get lost in the details of the picture that creates the word. The Los Angeles artist and filmmaker has photographed a city at night and digitally enhanced its shining streetlights so that they call to mind the stars overhead. The dazzling image on his neon light-box lets us imagine that we are looking down at the Earth’s surface from above while simultaneously staring up at the heavens. The illusion is even more wondrous because Aitken has created it with a picture of an otherwise unremarkable location – not a famous city with a signature skyline but just an everyday place that could be anywhere.

His fusion of words and pictures builds on art made of language by such influential precedents as Lawrence Weiner, Mel Bochner, and Ed Ruscha. Bringing fantasy into the picture, Aitken melds illusion and reality into an experience of thrilling stillness.

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