Guiding light: 'Light of Reason' illuminated, Rose opening celebrated

The ceremony for the new installation by Chris Burden punctuated the museum's fall opening

Photo/Mike Lovett

Chris Burden's Light of Reason after it was illuminated Sept. 10.

A new gateway to the Rose Art Museum is now brightly lit.

Several hundred students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members gathered outside the museum just before dusk on Sept. 10 for the ceremonial lighting of "Light of Reason," an installation of antique street lights created by renowned artist Chris Burden.

The installation's name is a nod to the university’s namesake, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, who said, "If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.” President Frederick M. Lawrence initiated the ceremonial first lighting, and the Lydian String Quartet played Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 as the lights turned on. 

"Brandeis would say 'your minds may be bold, they can be bolder yet.' It is a high bar we aspire to, and these lights lift us to that aspiration," Lawrence said just before the installation was illuminated.

The "Light of Reason" is quickly serving its purpose of connecting the Rose with the rest of campus, Lawrence said.

"The campus is different from how it was before, and will never be the same again because of this remarkable work that already feels like it belongs here," Lawrence said. "It has filled this space and created this space in a magnificent way. Literally and symbolically, this connects the Rose with the campus. The Rose is an integral part of what we're about."

The 95-year-old lamps once stood on streets around Los Angeles, but along with thousands of others they were dismantled in the 1950s and 60s and placed in landfills. Burden said he was pleased to have reclaimed some of the lamps and found a home for them.

"It's with great pleasure that these have been saved and preserved for history," Burden said.

During the ceremony, Lawrence acknowledged a group of students quietly protesting how the university responds to sexual assault cases. Lawrence said Brandeis has a history of welcoming debate and protests, and that he stood by the protesters as an advocate.

"Let me just say, someone who has spent a career studying, arguing for and combating the treatment and response to bias-motivated violence and hate crimes in this society, and particularly gender motivated violence, sexual misconduct and sexual violence will never be condoned on this campus and has no place on this campus," Lawrence said.

Inside the Rose, the evening marked its grand opening for the fall season, with exhibitions featuring Magnus Plessen, Alex Hubbard and Mark Bradford.

The new exhibitions follow the legacy of the founding director of the museum, Sam Hunter, said Chris Bedford, the Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose. Hunter, who died in July, was a collector of work by artists who were emerging at the time, but are now "fully emerged," Bedford said.

"The young artists we are looking at today fall into that exact category," Bedford noted. "We need to make sure the collection stays as young and as vital as it always was."

Although Sept. 10 was the official lighting of the installation, it had already been lit once two weeks earlier. As part of orientation, incoming freshmen gathered at the "Light of Reason" holding candles with small pieces of paper inscribed with their hopes for their freshman year. Lawrence said he would like to see it happen at the start of every academic year.

"I hope it will be a tradition now for generations to come, that Brandeisians will begin their career inspired by this art, inspired by this site, inspired by these lights, and inspired to let their minds be bold if indeed we are going to be guided by the light of reason," Lawrence said.

Categories: Alumni, Arts, Student Life

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