Art 5016

Published on January 17th, 2013 | by Elizabeth Coleman


Review of “Immaterial” at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary

In a few words...

Summary: Immaterial leaves you with a sense of euphoria from the brightly-colored light displays and doubt about reality itself.



Artists often try to capture a moment, feeling or sensation in their work. Two notable installation artists, Amy Ho and Cathy Cunningham-Little, capture all of these in their exhibit, Immaterial, at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary in Oakland, California. Both artists use light as a medium to challenge the viewer’s sense of spacial and physical reality.

The first piece I encountered was Cunningham-Little’s installation sculpture, Six Degrees (2010), featuring a series of mirrored glass globes and steel ladles in which the viewer can see her own reflection from different angles.

Cathy Cunningham-Little, Six Degrees

Cathy Cunningham-Little, Six Degrees (installation view)

Resembling large Christmas ornaments hanging at various lengths, the globes sway lightly, casting wavering shadows on the back wall. Cunningham-Little uses the reflections on the glass as a metaphor for the interconnectedness among people; the globes capture not only the viewer’s reflection, but the reflections of others as well. Each viewer’s experience of the piece becomes individualized through the ever-changing reflections.

The clear highlight of the exhibit was Cunningham-Little’s awe-inspiring manipulation of color and light. Unlike many artists who capture physical objects in their work, Cunningham-Little has taken a different route, instead focusing on the intangible, ethereal images that are created by light. To accomplish this, Cunningham-Little worked with bits of “dichroic” glass (glass that has been treated with chemicals to limit the visual light spectrum). By expertly bouncing light off the glass at different angles, Cunningham-Little created large-scale, visually-dazzling murals on the wall. The vividly-colored beams of light radiated like swords from the center of the work, dramatically piercing the blank slate of the wall.

Ho has taken to creating and photographing miniatures to explore artificial realities. Much like artist Kathy Aoki  (who frequently references pop culture in her miniatures, like her Hello Kitty Mount Rushmore), Ho explores imaginary spaces and challenges perception with self-made miniature scenes.  Up/Down II (2012) is a video projection of stairs on the gallery wall and the same image in reverse on the floor, inviting the viewer to imagine a virtual stairwell space and challenging the viewer’s sense of spacial reality.

Amy Ho, light box installations

Ho also explores depth and color in a series of wall-mounted light panels, using shadow to give them dimension. Though the pieces are striking, they miss the mark of the artist’s stated intent. Each of the four panels features duratrans prints in red, blue, yellow and green, backlit by fluorescent tubes that are positioned to create a double vision of the image in the light box. The light boxes are supposed to represent the three-dimensional spaces one might inhabit. However, though the idea was creative, I didn’t imagine myself inhabiting the spaces, instead just marveling at the brilliantly-lit boxes.

Immaterial leaves the viewer with a simultaneous sense of euphoria — mainly due to the effects of the brightly-colored light displays — and doubt of reality; after viewing the exhibit, my perceptions were completely thrown off. Beyond their obvious talent as artists,  Cunningham-Little and Ho were successful in their purpose, leaving the viewer to question the very nature of reality and the mind.

See Cathy Cunningham-Little and Amy Ho through January 24  at the Chandra Cerrito Contemporary in Oakland. For more information, visit

Four and a half stars

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About the Author

Elizabeth Coleman is an attorney and writer, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA and a law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law, where she received a certificate in public interest and social justice and served as an articles editor on their law review. Apart from her legal career, Elizabeth enjoys writing short stories and dabbling in art (the messier, the better!), and previously was a regular contributor to SWOOP Magazine. She has recently started working on her first book, a young adult fantasy novel about lucid dreaming and parallel realities. Read her blog at

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