Frank Gehry Still Glows: Revisits “Available Light” and Fish Lamps

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Fish Lamp, Frank Gehry, first shown in 1984; one of the designs that evolved from a 1983 commission by the Formica Corporation.

At 86, the incorrigible Frank Gehry is still moving forward, with projects aplenty. But today he’s taking a breather to revisit — and update — two of his creations from the early 1980s.

Fish Story

Back in 1984 the architect introduced the world to his interest in fish, with striking lamps whose scales were made of then pioneering new Formica material Colorcore.

He updated those lamps with a new show at The Gagosian in 2013, and today he will work with a party of eighth grade students from Hoopa Valley Elementary School, on crafting new fish sculptures, at his Playa Vista office. The project is part of the Turnaround Arts program, an initiative helmed by the First Lady “to provide intensive arts education resources to struggling schools across the country.” 

Each Turnaround Arts school is “adopted” by a well-known artist, and Gehry Partners is paired with Hoopa Valley Elementary School. 

Available Light being performed in 1983 at the Temporary Contempary; photo by Beatriz Schiller
Available Light being performed in 1983 at the Temporary Contempary; photo by Beatriz Schiller (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Available Light

At the same time — the early ’80s — as Gehry was dreaming up his fish lamps, he was involved with another project that would start to define him as an architect whose work went way beyond buildings.

With choreographer Lucinda Childs and minimalist composer John Adams he created the set for a dance called Available Light, in his then-newly opened Temporary Contemporary (now Geffen Contemporary) in downtown Los Angeles.

The dance, described by then LA Times critic Craig Bomberg, as being about the “abstraction of time and space through movement,” is being restaged tonight and tomorrow, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Gehry, Adams and Childs have reunited to stage the piece, although Childs herself, now 75  years young, will not dance. Tickets are still available.

The architect told the LA Times that if the originators of “Available Light” thought they would one day be considered groundbreaking artists, “We would’ve run for the hills. Nobody ever presumes that. We wait about 30 or 40 years and look back and say, ‘Yeah, maybe.'”

Following the performance, a discussion will take place between the creators about the making of the performance and how it has evolved since its initial run 31 years ago.

When: June 5 and 6, 2015 8:00 PM

Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

Tickets: Tickets are available in person at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office, online at, or via phone at 323.850.2000.

Click here for more information.

1983 sketch by Frank Gehry for Available Light
1983 sketch by Frank Gehry for Available Light