Oct. 27 2015 04:15 PM

The artist’s new work at the Ice Gallery in Barrio Logan is something to behold

Photo by Michael James Armstrong
“Three Thousand Four Hundred Fifty Threads”

The masterfulness of Michael James Armstrong's aptly titled "Three Thousand Four Hundred Fifty Threads" comes in waves. First comes the sheer majesty. It's an ominous, site-specific installation with just less than 3,500 black and white threads hung from ceiling to floor and configured into precise, blockish columns. Once the initial immensity is taken in the illusory effects start to come out. First, if you're seeing the piece around noon, at what Armstrong calls the "golden" hour, the skylight inside the Ice Gallery in Barrio Logan makes "Threads" appear as if it is glowing. Or, more accurately, the white column combined with the sun hitting the skylight at just the correct angle makes that column appear to be raining light—like a glorious soft drizzle.

Finally, as viewers circle around the piece or if they tilt their heads to and fro there will be flicker in the eye, the result of the individual threads overlapping and causing a moiré pattern. Armstrong says this was accidental, but also says he should have anticipated that the overlapping threads, each spaced one-sixteenth of an inch apart, would cause this effect. The fact that the black threads are twice as wide as the white ones only adds to the delusory nature of the piece.

Armstrong's piece, however, should not be viewed as some kind of artistic parlor trick. Yes, it's amazing to look at for these reasons, but "Threads" is the culmination of years of work from one of San Diego's most talented and underrated artists. Ten years ago, he was working in Subway graffiti-inspired paintings, and, inspired by artists like Robert Irwin, he has steadily moved into site-specific installations.

To see this new work in the perfect time of day is truly awe-inspiring, but just make an appointment to see it before it's gone on Nov. 21, no matter the time of day.

"It's different," Armstrong says matter-of-factly, when asked what it's like to see "Threads" early in the morning or even late at night. "That's ultimately something that I hope to achieve with pieces like this. I love installations that, when you come upon them, they're fully formed. All your information is right there. There's no question of, 'What am I looking at? What is this?' It's all there, but the more time you spend with it, the more you can see."

Photo by Michael James Armstrong


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