Spencer Finch: Back to Kansas (2013)
Second post in a series about the installations that are in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Project Los Altos program
A playful exploration of the interaction of light and color, Back to Kansas is a large grid of colored squares. It dominates the white-walled room where it was painted; there is no other decoration or object in the space save for a couple of sofas for viewers and a black pulley system that would, if in use, lift up a large door at the entrance. The only light comes from the large skylight above and the open doorway to the street.
Devoid of context, this is where the description starts and ends: colored squares. More than any other piece in Project Los Altos, the Finch needs explanation. It was inspired by the 1939 The Wizard of Oz film; each square is a specific color taken from a moment in the movie. So a red square might be a ruby slipper; a green square the wall of the Emerald City. The squares were carefully measured so that together, they are scaled to the same aspect ratio as the original movie. In that darkened room, viewing is rather like a theater experience.
At sunset – if you’re lucky enough to be in the building – the setting sun slowly leeches away the light from the room. As this occurs, the colors appear to fade into greys before disappearing completely in the dark. This evolution inspired the piece’s title and ties it quite nicely with the movie that inspired it.
So yes, it’s colored squares, but there’s a lot more behind it. I like the piece because it’s a very playful way to respond to the movie, a sort of fan art that has a completely different approach to the film. It’s also a fun painting to discuss with kids – they usually don’t care about color or light, but they love guessing which square is Glinda’s dress or the Wicked Witch’s skin.