Spencer Finch pursues the most elusive and ineffable of experiences through his work— from the color of a sunset outside a Monument Valley motel room to the afternoon breeze by Walden Pond, the shadows of passing clouds in the yard of Emily Dickinson’s home or the light in a Turner painting.
With both a scientific approach to gathering data and a true poetic sensibility, Finch’s installations, sculptures and works on paper filter perception through the lens of nature, history, literature and personal experience. “Contrary to what one might expect,” writes Susan Cross in the monograph for the artist’s 2007 solo exhibition What Time Is It On the Sun? at MASS MoCA, “Finch's efforts toward accuracy—the precise measurements he takes under different conditions and at different times of day—resist, in the end, a definitive result or single empirical truth about his subject. Instead, his dogged method reinforces the fleeting, temporal nature of the observed world, illustrating his own version of a theory of relativity.”
Important early commissions include Painting Air, an installation made for the artist’s 2012 survey at the RISD Museum of Art, in which more than 100 panels of suspended glass of varying reflectivity refract and distort an abstract mural inspired by the colors of Claude Monet's garden at Giverny. Lunar (2011), commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago, is a large sculpture that harnesses the power of the sun, gathering energy during the day and releasing that energy as a glow at the precise color temperature of a full moon. Perhaps most seen is The River That Flows Both Ways (2009), an installation on New York’s High Line in which an existing series of windows is transformed with 700 individual panes of glass representing the water conditions on the Hudson River over 700 minutes in a single day. “Like the ancient practitioners of the hermetic arts, who saw change as the most fundamental truth of the universe,” Cross continues, “the artist doesn’t always provide an answer in his investigations. For Finch art can do more: it can ‘ignite our capacity for wonder.’”
Spencer Finch was born in 1962 in New Haven, CT and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, Hamilton College, and Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, and has exhibited extensively in the US and internationally since the early 1990s. Recent major projects include A Cloud Index, a site-specific commission for the new Elizabeth line station at Paddington in London (2022); Orion, permanently installed at the San Francisco Airport, CA (2020); Moon Dust (Apollo 17), Baltimore Museum of Art, MD (2019); Fifteen Stones (Ryoanji), an intervention in the International Pavilion at the Fundació Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona, Spain (2018); Lost Man Creek, his project with the Public Art Fund, Brooklyn, NY (2016-2018); Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning, a special commission for the 9/11 Memorial, New York, NY (2014); A Certain Slant of Light, The Morgan Library and Museum, New York, NY (2014); Peindre la nuit, Centre Pompidou, Metz (2018- 2019). Significant solo exhibitions include Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT (2018-2019); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2017); Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (2017); Seattle Museum of Art, WA (2017); Turner Contemporary, Margate, United Kingdom (2014); Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence, RI (2012); Art Institute of Chicago, IL (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA (2011); Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, MA (2011); Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2010); Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France (2010); Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia (2009) and MASS MocA, North Adams, MA (2007). Finch was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, the 2008 Turin Triennale and the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). His work can be found in collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Morgan Library, New York, NY; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia; Kemper Museum of Art, St Louis, MO; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, amongst several others.