Philips: The LED Art of Jim Campbell

Jim Campbell is an electronic artist who has been working with light sculptures for over 30 years. After graduating from M.I.T with degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics, he worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley. Intrigued by pixilated images, he decided to apply the same principles of low resolution to moving images. He began experimenting with perception and the amount of information required to make an image recognizable in the human mind.

To say that Jim Campbell is an innovator is an understatement. In a world that values hi-resolution, crisp images, Jim Campbell has found inspiration in the low-res, pixilized form. It is the basis of  his art work. He integrates and cleverly manipulates computers and custom electronics like no other. And it is that refreshing way of using technology that makes his visually eye-catching artworks so engaging.

He holds more than a dozen patents in the field of video image processing and he is a pioneer of the creative programming of light bulbs and LEDs.

A few years ago, Jim Campbell created a three-dimensional field of light at Madison Square Park in Manhattan. Entitled ‘Scattered Light’ 1,600 light bulbs were fitted with LEDs and scattered in a 3D space. They were programmed to display a low-resolution, moving image as individual pixels. The perception of the images would change depending on where the visitors stood. As they circulated through the giant LED cube-like installation, they could appreciate different effects or detect new movements.  

Scattered Light

“The Journey” one of his LED installations has found a permanent home at the San Diego Airport. Campbell created the ribbon of light, a 700 foot-long ribbon of 37,000 LED light pendants. There are shadows of birds flying intermittently along the light ribbon and fluttering images of people swimming, dancing and walking, all the way throughout the LED sculpture.

The Journey

Over the years, his ultra-low-res video art has become part of his signature. “The most interesting aspect of these works is the movement,” he says. “It’s the movement that’s giving you the information.”

Jim Campbell now has a new series of light installations being displayed at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery as well as a retrospective of his work at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City.

At the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, until April 19, “the exhibition ranges from LED panels that project ultra low-resolution Kodachrome home movies to topographic LED sculptures created from molded transparent resin. Each piece relies on an intricately designed circuit board that dictates how the screens and lights interact with one another.” 

VIDEO  The Creator’s Project

Rhythms of Perception is Campbell’s first solo exhibition in New York and it is presented until June 15 at theMuseum of the Moving Image.

“This career-spanning exhibition features over 20 works, ranging from early experimental film, interactive works, and low-resolution videos to large-scale installations. Also displayed is a never-exhibited new work, a digital self-portrait which is carved in resin and illuminated with more than 1,000 LEDs”.

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