The quartet of Portal paintings are imagined, abstract representations of the spring and fall Equinox and summer and winter Solstice astronomic events. The two sets of paintings are installed symmetrically opposite each other, mirrored on the cross axes of the rotunda space; visually and spatially implying the seasonal rotation of the earth.
On sunny days, torqued ellipses of light travel diagonally down, over and up the surfaces of the interior. With patience the gradual movement of light shapes and spots can be sensed, almost observed, momentarily concentrating a viewer’s awareness of sky and the wonders of celestial movement. On a sunlit summer solstice day, an intense oval of natural light mesmerizingly rises to the center of the summer solstice painting.
The Portal painting’s dominant use of gold leaf and values of ultramarine blue echo their exquisite presence in many of the Lochoff reproductions of Italian Renaissance master works located in the cloister of the Frick Fine Art Building. The Portal paintings are conceived as palimpsests for reflection and movement of natural and projected light, references to art history, and the repurposing of the soaring rotunda chamber.
The sound component of “Portal” is delivered through eight speakers placed in the corners of the octagonal gallery space. The processed sounds and shifting textures, some of which were created with a Japanese temple bowl, respond to the changing natural and projected light as it moves unpredictably across the walls and floor, creating an aura that encourages contemplation.
Traces of organ sounds are embedded in the texture as a memory of the original function of the space, which once housed the Frick family organ. A brief sample from one of Henry Clay Frick’s favorite organ tunes, Moonlight and Roses, makes a cameo appearance.
Elements from the surrounding soundscapes are brought into the rotunda including the water fountain and birds in the building’s open courtyard, the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain outside the building’s front door, as well as the crunching of autumn leaves that surround and lead into the building.
As a result, a subtle sonic repurposing of the space is achieved from that of a sheer resonant sonic chamber, to an organ room, to a reflector of soundprints that surround and lead into the rotunda space.