Categories: Cornelia Feye, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: Wendell Kling’s ‘Coruscating Sanctuary’ Shines Bright at the Athenaeum

Article by Cornelia Feye

May 30, 2023

Wendell Kling, artist: photo: Cornelia Feye

Walking into the Athenaeum’s current exhibition is like stepping into the hushed, calm atmosphere of a cathedral, illuminated by jewel-tone stained-glass windows. The artist Wendell Kling was inspired by European cathedrals like Chartres Cathedral in France and Ulm Minster in Germany, but also by chapels created by artists like Matisse and Rothko, or the Quaker meeting hall by James Turrell – spaces where art and contemplation intersect.

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library’s 1921 William Templeton Johnson building with its arched windows and exposed beams provide the perfect setting for Wendell Kling’s transformation of the bright exhibition space into a dimly lit sanctuary.

Responding to the peaceful setting, a group of visitors sat down on the bolstered benches built by Kling for this purpose, to take it all in. As if the colorful windows, casting red and blue reflections onto the wooden floor, weren’t enough, there is also a triptych altarpiece, with a rotating central sculpture, a painted lectern, and painted hanging lamps. Wendell, a graduate from UCSD’s visual arts program, and a professor at Mesa College, admits to being a maximalist, who likes to add more and more elements to his installations.

As the visitors talk in subdued voices, the furniture responds back to them. The lamps blink in sync with their laughter and conversation, the altarpiece sculpture lights up from within with various strings of colored lights. The visitors delight in these interactive features that makes their presence part of the installation.

Athenaeum installation, windows by Wendell Kling: photo: Lile Kvantaliani

Several events have been planned to activate the space, make use of the lectern, and provide opportunities to experience the space in action, blinking lights and all.:

Musical Performance on Friday, June 2, at 6 PM, with musician Sam Lopez; free

Gallery Walk-through with Wendell Kling: Saturday, June 3, 11 AM; free

Artist Talk by Wendell Kling: Thursday, June 15, 6:30 PM; Tickets $15/$20

Behind the central sculpture on the altarpiece a background projection moves in circular patterns. Kling is a trained projectionist from his time working in movie theatres, and has used moving projections in several of his public art projects, as well as a previous installation at the Athenaeum’s Rotunda gallery.

Athenaeum installation: Altarpiece by Wendell Kling, photo: Lile Kvantaliani

The window panes contrast black, abstract and symmetrical paper cut-outs, with hand painted color planes in reds, yellows, blues and greens. Kling cut out a small-sized folded black paper, following his intuition without a preset plan. These ‘Scherenschnitte’ got transferred on a plastic sheet the size of the window and then Kling painted the other side with acrylic paint in free form. The intuitive, or automatic process of creating shapes and images appeals to Kling, and he compared it to the automatic writing process of the Surrealists. “I always look for ways to surprise myself as an artist,” Kling says.

A shelf of poetry books, invites reading and contemplation, befitting of a Music & Arts Library. “I hope people will come and sit, read, and enjoy the space,” Kling says. This is exactly what is already happening. Wendell Kling, A Coruscating Sanctuary will be on view until July 8, 2023.

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