Amy M. Ho
Sep 04 - Oct 06
by Alex Bigman
On weekends, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza could hardly feel emptier. There is almost no foot traffic through the wide-open former epicenter of Occupy Oakland. Just a few clusters of teenagers pass the afternoon, smoking and skateboarding beneath the Beaux-Arts backdrop of City Hall.
This is the view from Pro Arts’ tall back windows, which Amy M. Ho has tinted in alternating red and blue for her installation Sky in Red and Blue (2012).1 The tinted windows, which appear somewhere between stained glass and 3-D glasses, bathe the corner in subdued ambience, causing the city center scene to alternately appear scorching and cool.
In drawing attention to the experience of color, Ho transforms windows into screens. Viewers exchange the experience of looking out for one of looking at in an almost painterly sense, acquiring an acute sense of the distribution of architectural forms and shades of color across the panel itself.
The artist gives this phenomenological screw another turn with the two-channel video projection Room with Yellow and Diagonal Blue (2012), which beams footage of enclosed interior spaces—one ambient yellow, the other ambient blue—onto the walls of a makeshift room. In the yellow projection, a splotch of light expands, shrinks, and meanders around the virtual wall.
The illusory extensions of the installation room throw the viewer into an indefinite space, a perceptual effect that is heightened as fluctuations in the projected yellow splotch cause the light to brighten and dim. The screen dissolves, in effect shifting a viewer’s focus to one’s own beguilingly indeterminate position in space. Looking at then gives way to looking around.
Ho’s two installations thus play almost lyrically against one another, setting up and dissolving the construct of the screen from different angles. Stumbling back out into the plaza from this minimalist arena, one is at once thrilled and humbled to find not a scene of emptiness but one of perceptual plenty.