Curated by Dietrich Neumann, Brown University Professor of History of Modern Architecture, the exhibit draws from photographs and drawings in Kelly's papers, which are housed in Yale's Manuscripts & Archives collection. (Kelly attended the Department of Architecture of Yale's School of Fine Arts and graduated in 1944.) There are additional items from the Kelly family archive and a series of luminous models of several of the projects Kelly worked on during his career.
Recognized as one of the foundational figures in architectural lighting design, Kelly was instrumental in developing a vocabulary of light centered around three principles: focal glow (highlight), ambient luminescence (graded washes), and play of brilliants (sharp detail). It was a language largely influenced by modern architecture and Kelly worked with many of the greats including Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, and Philip Johnson. Many of architecture's 20th century iconic buildings have Kelly's imprint, such as the Seagram Building in New York and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
The exhibition is organized into five sections as it traces Kelly's career. “I wanted to contextualize Kelly,” Neumann explains. The first section examines Kelly's European influences. The second section looks at Kelly's time at Yale, his exposure to stage lighting courses, and the influence of theater designer Stanley McCandless. Kelly's influence on contemporary lighting designers is the subject of the third section, followed by the fourth section, which looks at materials and reflective surfaces. Neumann has assembled some of the materials used in the projects Kelly worked on, such as travertine and metal chain curtain, and has created installations that illustrate how light interacts with these materials. Finally, a series of panoramic photographic images recreates the seminal projects Kelly worked on.
A two-day symposium on Oct. 1-2 will close the exhibition. Kelly's language of light continues to influence the work of today's architects and lighting designers, as evidenced by the symposium's line-up of speakers, which includes Rogier van der Heide, Mark Major, and Yann Kersale©. An accompanying book of the same title as the exhibit is to be released this fall. There will also be an IES New York City Section-sponsored lecture related to the centennial year celebrations on Oct. 6 in New York. For more information on the Yale exhibit and symposium, go to bit.ly/a2Ujr0, and for the IES New York City event, go to iesnyc.org.