Fujiko Nakaya: Veil

Organized by Henry Urbach and Irene Shum

Coinciding with the 65th anniversary of the Glass House, Fujiko Nakaya: Veil was the first site-specific artist project to engage the iconic Glass House itself, designed by Philip Johnson and completed in 1949.

Nakaya, a Japanese artist who has produced fog sculptures and environments internationally, wrapped the Glass House in a veil of dense mist that periodically came and went. For approximately 10 to 15 minutes each hour, the Glass House appeared to vanish, only to return as the fog dissipated. Inside the structure, the sense of being outdoors was temporarily suspended during the misty spells.

Veil staged a potent dialogue with the Glass House, producing an opaque atmosphere to meet the building’s extreme transparency and temporal effects that complement its timelessness. According to Henry Urbach, “Johnson’s interest in the balance of opposites is evident throughout the Glass House campus. With Nakaya’s temporary installation, we carry this sensibility to its endpoint while allowing the unique magic of the Glass House — the dream of transparency, an architecture that vanishes — to return again and again as the fog rises and falls.”

The Glass House, situated on a promontory overlooking a valley, is subject to changing wind patterns, as well as variable temperature and humidity, that continually influenced the interchange between Veil and the building it shrouded. Fresh water, pumped at high pressure through 600 nozzles, produced an immersive environment that revealed these dynamic conditions. According to Nakaya, “Fog responds constantly to its own surroundings, revealing and concealing the features of the environment. Fog makes visible things become invisible and invisible things — like wind — become visible.” The drama of Nakaya’s work rests in the continuous interplay between what is visible and what is not. Known coordinates vanish, only to be replaced by a miasma, rich in changing phenomenological effects, that evoke a sense of mystery, foreboding, and wonder.

Fujiko Nakaya was born in Sapporo, Japan in 1933. Her father, Ukichiro Nakaya, a physicist credited with making the first artificial snowflakes, had an impact on her work and, as a young art student, she became interested in working with cloud-like forms. In 1970, at the World Expo in Osaka, Japan, Nakaya created the world’s first fog sculpture when she enveloped the Pepsi Pavilion in a vaporous mist, in collaboration with the legendary artist collaborative Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.).

Nakaya has created fog installations around the world, including projects for the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; the Grand Palais, Paris; the Australian National Gallery, Canberra; and the Exploratorium, San Francisco, among others. She consulted with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro on the Blur Building for the 2002 Swiss Expo, and has worked with numerous artists (including Trisha Brown, David Tudor, and Bill Viola) on environments for music and performance. Veil was her first large-scale installation on the east coast of the United States and the first time her work was presented at a renowned historic site.

Fujiko Nakaya: Veil was generously supported by National Endowment for the Arts, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The Japan Foundation, and Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®. Additional support was provided by Mee Industries, Inc. Related programs were generously supported by the A’Lani Kailani Blue Lotus White Star Foundation.