Anthony McCall – Landscape for Fire

Posted August 2nd, 2013


 Anthony McCall
British-born avant-garde artist Anthony McCall occupies a space between sculpture, cinema and drawing. He is known for his ‘solid-light’ installations, a series that he began in 1973 with his seminal Line Describing a Cone, in which a volumetric form composed of projected light slowly evolves in three-dimensional space.

Anthony McCall was a key figure in the avant-garde London Film-makers Co-operative in the 1970s and his earliest films are documents of outdoor performances that were notable for their minimal use of the elements, most notably fire.

Line Describing a Cone has long been a classic of American avant-garde cinema, but because it was most often screened in dusty Soho lofts in the past, the piece was little known to a wider audience. The inclusion of Line Describing a Cone,1973 in the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition “Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art, 1964-1977″ has opened McCall’s work to a great deal of interest both in America and abroad. While curators are only now beginning to mine the history of the projected image in art, McCall continues to be one of the most important of the Post-Minimalist artists to use projected film.

On Air – Landscape for Fire

The ikono On Air Festival will be showing “Landscape for Fire” (1972, 16 mm), one of McCall’s sculptural performances based on a precisely calibrated grid of small fires.

For Landscape for Fire, Anthony McCall and members of the British artist colla-borative Exit followed McCall’s pre-determined score to torch containers of flammable material across a field. McCall describes it: “Over a three-year peri-od, I did a number of these sculptural performances in landscape. Fire was the medium. The performances were based on a square grid defined by 36 small fires (6 x 6). The pieces, which usually took place at dusk, had a systematic, slowly changing structure.” The work brought the grid — a conceptual focus for many artists in the 1970s and after — into a natural landscape, merging it with the vagaries of outdoor space and fire.

Image: Still from “Landscape for Fire”

On View: Anthony McCall – Crossing the Elbe

Anthony McCall - Crossing the Elbe
To mark the opening of IBA Hamburg’s presentation year, British artist Anthony McCall realized a light project for Hamburg Deichtorhallen, which is on view until March 22 2014. The project reimagines the »Leap across the Elbe« in visual terms. Three searchlights project slender beams of white light towards one another from three different locations – from the roof of the SPIEGEL building next to Deichtorhallen in Hamburg Neustadt, from the bunker in Wilhelmsburg, and from the Deichtorhallen – Falckenberg Collection in Hamburg-Harburg, thus linking the Elbe island with both the north and the south banks of the river. Over the year, these three horizontal beams of light will progressively rotate their angles of direction so that, one by one, all sections of the city will become part of this symbolic leap.

Starting ninety minutes after sunset, Crossing the Elbe is visible for 10-minutes every evening for a whole year in most parts of the sky between Deichtorhallen Hamburg and Deichtorhallen – Falckenburg Collection in Harburg.

The project is a collaboration between Deichtorhallen Hamburg and IBA. It was realized by Tim Hupe Architects. You can share your thoughts and images on a blog under www.crossingtheelbe.com.

Anthony McCall about CROSSING THE ELBE


Anthony McCall studied graphic design at the Ravensbourne College of Art and Design, Bromley, Kent, England in the late 1960s and experimented with film during that time. Today he lives and works in Manhattan.

After moving to New York in 1973, McCall continued with fire performances and developed his ‘solid light’ film series, conceiving the Line Describing a Cone, in 1973. These works are simple projections that emphasise the sculptural qualities of a beam of light.
At the end of the 1970s, McCall withdrew from making art. Over 20 years later, he acquired a new dynamic and re-opened his ‘solid light’ series, this time using digital projectors rather than 16mm film.

In October 2009, McCall’s work was featured in a solo show opening at the Moderna Museet. This exhibition showcased Doubling Back (2003) as well as a light installation entitled You and I, Horizontal (2005). Also included in the show were a number of drawings illustrating varied motions of light waves, which the artist refers to as “scores” of his films.
Later in 2009, McCall was awarded £500,000 from the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad to create a work consisting of a column of steam in Birkenhead which was planned to be visible up to 100 km away.[6] In April 2013 it was announced that the work would never be completed despite already costing £535,000 In Fall of 2013, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis will host an exhibition of his work, entitled You and I, Horizontal (II).


McCall’s work has also been exhibited at, amongst others, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2004, Tate Britain, London, 2004, Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, France (2006), Musée de Rochechouart, France (2007), SFMoMA (2007), Serpentine Gallery, London (2007-8), Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2009), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2009), Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand (2010), Sprueth Magers/Ambika P3, London (2011), and Serralves, Porto (2011). A solo exhibition will open in April 2012 at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.


McCall’s work is represented in numerous collections, including, amongst others, Tate, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, SFMoMA, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and the Hirshhorn, Washington DC.

Book & Links

-> Anthony McCall ‘s Homepage
-> Sean Kelly Gallery

Anthony McCall: The Solid Light Films and Related Works is a nonfiction book on avant-garde artist Anthony McCall and his work in cinema. The book was edited by Christopher Eamon with contributions by Branden W. Joseph and Jonathan Walley and was published in 2005 by Northwestern University Press, in association with the New Art Trust in San Francisco, California. You can try getting a copy in amazon’s used books section over here.


Anthony McCall. Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture.

From Berlin’s museum for contemporary art, Hamburger Bahnhof — Museum für Gegenwart which presented the largest exhibition of McCall’s work to date. The museum presented a selection of Anthony McCall’s works from the past ten years. The historic central hall of the former railway station had been transformed into a cinema space, filled only with the the haze and the veils of light that are typical for McCalls unique light installations, the so-called solid light films.

Anthony McCall | Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart

A ‘solid-light’ film by Anthony McCall.

This film captures a recent presentation of Anthony McCall’s ground-breaking 1973 work, Line Describing a Cone. Testing the boundaries between cinema and sculpture, the work takes the form of a projected white dot that slowly grows to fill the dark space with a cone of light, immersing audience members in its field, to mesmerising effect.

Anthony McCall – 2012 Lecture: “Recent Work and Current Projects”

From HBK Braunschweig