Issue #178
Any Port In A Storm November 11, 2011

Barry Stone
"Dark Side of the Rainbow" (Exhibition view including from left to right, Positive Eclipse of 1919, Promises Promises, Negative Eclipse of 1919, all 2011)
Courtesy of the artist

View Gallery

Barry Stone

Art Palace, Houston

Through November 12
by Melissa Venator

The title of Barry Stone’s first solo exhibition at Art Palace, Dark Side of the Rainbow, refers to the cultural phenomenon of playing Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon as the soundtrack for Victor Fleming’s1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Fans claim there are moments when the lyrics or music correspond to the action in the film. References to Dark Side of the Rainbow appear throughout photographs, drawings and paintings in the show.

There is a fundamental contradiction at work in Stone’s allusion to Dark Side of the Rainbow. The musicians of Pink Floyd famously denied that the film influenced their album. Any correspondences are purely coincidental; perhaps the product of humankind’s universal tendency to look for patterns where none exist. In contrast, Stone’s works, disparate as they seem, weave a web of correspondences deliberately constructed by the artist. The colorful prism in the watercolor Prism Runaway—a clear quote of the iconic prism on the album cover of The Dark Side of the Moon—is formally similar to other works structured around volumetric abstract shapes. The most incongruous of these is a color close-up photograph of the driver’s-side window of a beat-up car, which initially seems out of sync with the other, more abstract works in the show. Its title, Tetrahedronal El Camino, explains its relationship through the strong geometric lines of the window frame. Stone’s correspondences, both between and within works, are as intentional in the exhibition as they are coincidental in the popular spectacle.

Consider the twin black-and-white drawings Positive Eclipse of 1919 and Negative Eclipse of 1919. Each work is the positive and negative of the same image: an off-set circle inscribed by a contrasting corona. In fact, they are drawings of a solar eclipse. Within the logic of Dark Side of the Rainbow, these works might refer to the last track on the album, also titled “Eclipse.” However, they embody another set of correspondences that speak directly to Stone’s larger project. As their titles indicate, the works depict a specific eclipse; in fact, they are copies of a famous photograph by astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington of a total solar eclipse that took place on May 29, 1919. The grainy image is primitive when compared to modern astronomy’s ostentatious full-color photographs of celestial bodies, but Stone faithfully captures the striking minimal aesthetic of the original image in his ink drawings.

Apart from its formal beauty, this photograph is remembered today for it central role in proving the validity of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. On one hand, the curvature of light around massive bodies predicted by the general theory of relativity and proven by Eddington resembles the refraction of light through the prism on the cover of The Dark Side of the Moon. On the other hand, within popular culture, the general theory of relativity is often misinterpreted to mean that all knowledge is relative. This understanding was expressed by the art critic José Ortega y Gasset when he wrote in 1923: “The theory of Einstein is marvelous proof of the harmonious multiplicity of all possible points of view.” In these words we find the perfect metaphor for Stone’s project: a collection of all possible points of view, both incongruous and captivating, compressed into his newest body of work.

Melissa Venator is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at Rice University.

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