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The Great Hall, Wenyon & Gamble, 2002, digital print, 7" (H) x 40" (W)

Mapping the Great Hall

New York Hall of Science, January 25th to February 23rd, 2003

Press Release
Artists Susan Gamble and Michael Wenyon use astronomical mapping techniques to photograph scientific buildings here on earth. Their latest images document the dramatic interior of the Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science, a seven-story-high structure of curving blue-glass walls built for the 1964 Worlds' Fair in Flushing Meadows. These 'digital panoramas' and 'photographic mosaics' are part of an exhibition at the Hall which also includes photographs of telescope domes the pair recorded at various sites around the world. The "Panoramic Photograph of The Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science" (2002) explores the Great Hall as an homage to the night sky. Darkly hued glass and crystal stars form the rippled walls of the building, creating an illusion of the cosmos. While the exterior design of the Hall itself is an architectural feat, the "Panoramic Photograph" emphasizes the wall's function as a representation of the infinite and its scientific possibilities.

Describing the building in 1964, architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable said:

Here one thinks immediately of the 13th century rather than the 20th: of Sainte-Chapelle; of the drama of soaring heights stained with colored light. For this is a Cathedral of Science, rather than a Hall of Science, its luminous blue walls suggesting limitless extensions of space. At a time when science vies with religion in explaining the mysteries of the universe, this is an oddly significant architectural twist.(1)

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Previous panoramic photos by the team of Wenyon & Gamble explore the aesthetic aspects of research facilities, specifically astronomical observatories. Their images of telescope domes evoke celestial qualities in buildings whose designers typically deny artistic intent. In contrast, the Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science provides a structure whose purpose is to artistically evoke the universe. Built for the 1964 World's Fair, whose motto was "Peace Through Understanding", the Hall presents its rendition of the sky as a symbol of the optimism and faith in science that dominated the Fair. Wenyon & Gamble use their special camera to present a 360-degree angle view of this monument to the stars.

Art historian Debra Bricker Balken has said of Wenyon & Gamble's work:

...they have come up with a more analytic, conceptual take on the imagery of science, one which reveals both its elegance and connections with art[...] These images are replete with the grandeur of science but they are also, ironically, transformative, recasting clinical spaces and machines into imaginary, and sometimes ethereal, environments. (2)

Susan Gamble and Michael Wenyon have collaborated as artists since 1983. Their work uses holography and digital imaging to capture articles of historic and modern science. They have been artists in residence at the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Haystack Radio Observatory of MIT. Their previous exhibitions include "Observing the Observers..." Compton Gallery, MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA (2000); "Bibliomancy", The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA (1998); "Bibliography", Art Tower Mito, Mito, Japan (1992), as well as shows at the Whitney Museum, New York, The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, The Tate Gallery, Liverpool, England and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

New work for this exhibition is made possible in part by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

1. Huxtable, Ada Louise, ‘Harrison’s Building at World’s Fair Reminds One of 13th Century Cathedral’, The New York Times, 10 September 1964
2. Debra Bricker Balken, in "Observing the Observers...", catalog to an exhibition at MIT Museum, 2000
Press Release issued by the New York Hall of Science for the exhibition "Mapping the Great Hall, photographs by Wenyon & Gamble" at the New York Hall of Science, January 25th to February 23rd, 2003