Think Big! Large-scale art works feature light, sound, scent at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) downtown

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) will present at its downtown location, three large-scale installations by Robert Irwin, Ernesto Neto and Judith Barry, Nov. 19-Feb. 21. All three are part of the Museum’s permanent collection, which includes more than 4,600 works from 1950 to the present.

Each room-size installation has a character all its own. Irwin’s “Light and Space” is an elegant arrangement of fluorescent light-tubes that creates a hypnotic, space-transforming experience for viewers. This is a fairly recent work by the now 87-year-old Irwin, who has created transformative indoor and outdoor installations for many venues, including, locally, MCASD-La Jolla and the Stuart Collection at UCSD.

Irwin is one of seven long-lived and still active artists TIME magazine profiled in 2013 as “Legends at Work,” and this piece demonstrates his continuing exploration of the aesthetics of the 1960s Light and Space Movement he helped to define.

Neto’s “Mother body emotional densities, for alive temple time baby son,” is a hanging garden of elongated, translucent Lycra sacs filled with aromatic spices that creates another sort of engaging experience for viewers. The Brazilian artist has exhibited in New York, London and Paris, where he was awarded the title of Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his contribution to the enrichment of French culture. MCASD commissioned Neto’s site-specific piece for the opening of its downtown location in 2007, and this is the first time it has been shown since then.

Barry’s “Voice Off” is a two-channel video and sound installation that has two separate narratives unfolding simultaneously on a double-sided screen. One shows a woman interacting with dreamlike voices, the other a man haunted by voices he cannot identify.

Barry, whose background includes architecture, performance art, and computer graphics, is a New York-based artist who went from designing corporate party spaces to creating music videos, video projects for stores, magazine kiosks and London tube stations, and innovative video installations in venues around the world. A survey of her work will travel through the U.K. in 2016, and she gave the annual Russell Lecture at MCASD-La Jolla on Nov. 18.

“All three of these installations are environmental, enveloping viewers in different ways,” said Jill Dawsey, the museum’s associate curator. “The Irwin is all about light and space, the Neto is about scent and space, and the Barry is about sound, image and space, and how the voice can be visualized. We’re especially proud of the Barry piece, since we’ve never had her work on display before, and we had to work with her to design the right space for it, so viewers can navigate from both sides through a passageway in the screen.”

The exhibition’s opening night, Thursday, Nov. 19, is also the first of MCASD’s “Downtown at Sundown” events that will take place 5-8 p.m. on the third Thursdays of each month. Besides free admission, DJ music, and live performances, there will be guided tours of both MCASD and the nearby SDSU Downtown Gallery, plus discounts on food and drink at Stone Brewing Company and The Flight Path Wine Bar & Bistro, next door to the Museum.

••• IF YOU GO: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s downtown location is at 1100 & 1001 Kettner Blvd., between Broadway and B Street. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed Wednesday. Admission: $5-$10. (858) 454-3541.