Frank O. Gehry is, undoubtedly, one of the most influential architects of our time. While he is most frequently recognized for his dynamic in buildings like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, he has also developed one-of-a-kind designs for Tiffany & Co. or Lady Gaga. If one traces Gehry’s work throughout the five decades of his career, it becomes apparent that his inspiration for structures and shapes in the school of deconstructionist architecture is attributed, in part, to a deep appreciation for the “perfect form”: the fish.
The sinuous shape of fish has served as a model in the creation of many of his design and architecture projects, including his second bold set of fish lamps. The illuminated pieces have been exhibited at the Gagosian galleries in Beverly Hills, Paris and will be on view at Gagosian London until December 21st.
The first set of fish lamps were exhibited in 1984 by Gagosian in Los Angeles (Frank Gehry: Unique Lamps) and were the result of a fortuitous accident. While working with Formica, a sheet of ColorCore plastic laminate shattered into pieces, and Gehry saw something beyond the broken material. The shards resembled fish scales, which prompted him to embark on the creation of his first generation of fish lamps.
In 2012, Gehry revisited the fish, clearly a recurrent motif in his work; this time incorporating the use of larger, jagged scales that give shape and movement of the lamps. The plastic “scales” are artfully layered by hand onto metal frames and lit from within to emit a warm golden glow. Providing beautifully subtle lighting, these lamps are sculptures in and of themselves – light sculptures – some of which are mounted onto walls, displayed individually, supported by other structures, or mounted in groups of two or more. They appear to be frozen in the moment while flicking their tails, elegantly poised throughout the gallery.
In October 2013, one of Gehry’s 1984 ‘Fish Lamps’ was estimated at $70,000-$90,000 in the auction of 20th Century Decorative Arts in Los Angeles. The creation of playful furniture made of industrial corrugated cardboard, the Standing Glass Fish sculptures, displayed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the fish lamp series are all examples of additional outlets for his creativity. His imaginative use of inexpensive materials has led to the creation of these light sculptures and many other timeless, eye-catching and practical masterpieces that blur the lines between art and architecture. ■