Washington City Paper - 2018

It’s still early but “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (to Forsythe and Willems)” might be the best new local artwork of the year. The light installation by D.C. artist Tommy Bobo reads like a painting. Motion-controlled bulbs installed along a wall project light across a sequence of little square mirrors that bend and scatter the colors in kaleidoscopic combinations. The piece is mesmerizing, an array of one tight abstraction after another.

Or maybe the highlight for 2018 is “The Calm in the Day, Saved for the Moment (R-GB Arrangement),” an even simpler arrangement by Bobo. This one’s static. Three lights (LEDs under red, blue, and green gels) shine over a sequence of five nails, whose diffuse shadows make a kind of minimalist drawing. Three other light installations (or are they paintings?) show how an artist with a tight sense for composition can mine variations from just a few variables—in these works, lights and impediments.


East City Art - 2018

Tommy Bobo’s light paintings and his new moving light work are installed in an enclosed room at the far end of the gallery.  Stepping into this darkened space is sort of magical.  The ambient darkness is pierced by the brilliant colors in the projected light of his five projections.  One’s attention is immediately captured by the central work, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (to Forsythe and Willems) which has been programmed to create approximately fourteen million possible combinations of colored light forms.  The title may be familiar to modern dance enthusiasts.  It is the title of a ballet originally created by William Forsythe for the Paris Opera Ballet with electronic music by Thomas Willems.  This challenging work premiered in 1987 featuring the then very young Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire, and some would say that it changed contemporary ballet forever.  In a communication with the artist, Bobo explains why he used the title for his new foray into moving light, suggesting that the work is similarly a watershed in his investigations into using a light medium to evoke physical movement:

“I want to evoke a dancerly [sic] sense of movement with the light.  This piece in particular is a stepping stone to my grander robotic light dancing ambitions.  By referencing dance in the title, I hope that some will see a bit more of my thought process.”

The work is mesmerizing.  The combinations change about every 5 seconds, although the sequence is not absolutely regular.  Small mirrors are attached to the wall in strategic places to reflect the light in certain directions.  The motion controlled lights create curved and pointed forms that—perhaps because of the title—do seem to evoke the quick movements of Forsythe’s choreography.