Solid Lightning: Ugo Rondinone’s Stunning New Sculpture

In 2013, Ugo Rondinone’s 20-foot stone figures took over Rockefeller Plaza. In 2016, his 35-foot towers of fluorescent-colored boulders landed in the Las Vegas desert, and now this month at Gladstone Gallery in New York, Ugo Rondinone debuts his newest astounding sculptures: 3 solid “lightning strikes” made from bright yellow painted bronze, each reaching over 20 feet tall.

Ugo Rondinone: bright light shining. Gladstone Gallery New York

Rondinone’s work often ignites surprising contrasts between the natural and unnatural while twisting perceptions of material, time, and scale. His latest exhibition, bright light shining feels like a dream while you’re still in it – both familiar and bizarre. The sculptures initially appear to be upside-down trees or massive roots – but are in fact bronze. The large skylight and gray walls (painted for this exhibition) give an odd sense of time – neither day nor night, while the lightning itself invites you to perceive a phenomena that naturally occurs in a millisecond to the blink of an eye on permanent pause.

Ugo Rondinone, glorious light, 2023

Ugo Rondinone, sublime light, 2023

Ugo Rondinone, blissful light, 2023

Visitors who walk under the jagged 3-dimensional forms may experience another strange suspicion: If these were cast from real trees, the branch structure isn’t “growing” like any familiar tree on earth (even if upside-down). The texture, grain, and splinters look hyper-real, and yet the form feels impossible.

Ugo Rondinone: bright light shining. Gladstone Gallery New York

The answer may lie in Rondinone’s 2021 exhibition in this space. There, the artist presented a series of work titled nuns + monks that looked like gigantic boulders but were actually created from bronze enlargements of much smaller 3D-scanned limestone rocks.

Are these new works also bronze enlargements of small twigs, technologically transformed into a giant scale where physics is simultaneously familiar and impossible? Whatever their origin, Ugo Rondinone’s sculptures float between material categories, time perception, and the scale of the natural universe – providing a unique sense of wonder that spans across all his work.

Ugo Rondinone: bright light shining (detail) Gladstone Gallery New York

Ugo Rondinone: bright light shining. Gladstone Gallery New York

Ugo Rondinone, alluring cloud, 2019

A quiet final sculpture becomes visible only once inside the space. The gray alluring cloud is a blob-like form made from sand, gravel, and concrete. It too is a material transformation – heavy stone describing weightless vapor – as if it too is frozen in time.

Ugo Rondinone: bright light shining. Gladstone Gallery New York

The author with Ugo Rondinone’s bright light shining. Gladstone Gallery New York, 2023

Ugo Rondinone’s bright light shining is an exciting must-see experience that changes the air in the room while prompting a sustained and altered curiosity about the environment beyond the gallery’s walls.

What: Ugo Rondinone: bright light shining
Where: Gladstone Gallery, 530 W 21st St, New York, NY
When: September 14 – November 9, 2023

All images © Ugo Rondinone, Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery
Final image photographed by author David Behringer

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