Montana State University

Sculptor Charles Ross lectures on "Star Axis" and land art on April 16

April 13, 2010


Charles Ross, an internationally recognized sculptor who is known for connecting art and architecture and his art of light, will lecture about his "Star Axis" project at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 16, in room 339 of Leon Johnson Hall on the Montana State University campus.   High-Res Available

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Charles Ross, an internationally recognized sculptor who is known for connecting art and architecture and his art of light, will lecture about his "Star Axis" project at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 16, in room 339 of Leon Johnson Hall on the Montana State University campus.

Ross' lecture, "Star Axis: Sculpture to Observe the Stars," is sponsored by the MSU School of Architecture and is free and open to the public.

"Charles is extremely well-known in the art world and comes out of a tradition of land art, which is particular to America, and uses the specifics of land and place," said John Brittingham, a professor in the MSU School of Architecture. "Most of his work is concerned with light, which is something we're famous for in Montana. He's been working on his project, 'Star Axis,' for more than 30 years. (His lecture) is something that's relatively unprecedented for MSU."

Ross is a sculptor based in Las Vegas, N.M. and New York City, whose subject is light itself. Ross believes that art can create windows through which to view the larger natural order. He uses sunlight and starlight as a source. Ross' work includes photographs, paintings and drawings, site-specific prism/solar spectrum light installations, star maps and solar burns. Solar burns are portraits of sunlight drawn by the sun itself. To create these images, Ross places a wooden plank under a large magnifying lens. As the sun passes across the sky, it burns a mark across the plank.

Ross' "Star Axis," an earth/sky sculpture and "naked-eye observatory" that he has been working on for more than 30 years, made him a part of the Land Art movement that began in the 1960s and '70s. Located in the New Mexico desert, "Star Axis" was conceived in 1971 and is now nearing completion. This earthwork is on an Egyptian or pre-Columbian scale. It includes a solar pyramid. From inside it, the Earth's rotation can be observed. The central element of Star Axis is the Star Tunnel, which is cut into the side of a mesa with an ascending 11-story stairway in perfect alignment with the axis of the earth. As visitors climb the stairs of the star tunnel, they pass through 26,000 years of Earth/star history, viewing distant past and future aspects of Earth's shifting alignment with the stars.

In 1967, Ross joined the stable of artists at the Dwan Gallery in New York where both the Minimal and Land Art movements originated. After Dwan Gallery closed in 1972, Ross exhibited with a variety of galleries and museum, and his work is found in art collections throughout the world. His work includes the award-winning Harvard Business School Chapel built in collaboration with architect Moshe Safdie. Recently Ross completed two major solar spectrum works: "Spectrum 8," for the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian, and "Conversations with the Sun," at Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan. Ross continues to develop new artworks involving light, time, and planetary motion.

Ross received a bachelor's in mathematics in 1960 and an master's in sculpture in 1962 from the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1965 the artist began working with large-scale prisms to project huge bands of solar color into architectural spaces. Ross has continued this work, creating arrays of giant prisms specifically tuned to the sun and mounted in skylights.

Architects requiring AIA Continuing Education Units may sign in prior to the lecture to receive one hour of AIA Continuing Education Units. For more information, or to request public accommodation or accommodation to participate in the event, contact Sharon Matney at MSU School of Architecture, 994-2921.

John Brittingham (406) 994-3832, jbritt@montana.edu