The Worlds of Nam June Paik

Entering the darkened Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for The Worlds of Nam June Paik, the viewer is enveloped into an electronic universe created by a visionary multi-media artist. The first American retrospective since 1982 of the work of this pioneering Korean artist allows audiences to experience the singular ways that Paik has used the electronic moving image to combine art and technology through television projects, videotapes, installations, performances, collaborations and sculptures.

After four decades the 68 year-old’s work continues to be a thought provoking, sensory thrill ride. Nothing demonstrates this better than the site-specific centerpiece of the exhibition, "Modulations in Sync (2000)," which transforms the museum’s rotunda into a multimedia extravaganza. The installation is comprised of several mind-boggling components. In "Jacob’s Ladder," a green laser projection passes through a seven-story waterfall that begins at the top of the museum and falls to the rotunda floor. Through the use of mirrors, the laser is refracted into a continuous zigzag pattern that is transfixing. The cascading water causes the light beam to gently fluctuate. In "Sweet and Sublime," a laser projects a changing display of geometric shapes onto the rotunda ceiling. On the floor, 100 video monitors facing upwards, emit a rapid-fire array of Paik’s video imagery on multiple channels. Six large video screens mounted on the ramps of the rotunda mimic the video show on the floor. Multiple perspectives of the work are possible along the ramps that circle the space. The dramatic scene makes the viewer feel contained within a grand futuristic experiment.