First shown at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in 2018, the travelling exhibition Brian Clarke: The Art of Light opened in September 2020 at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York. Displayed across two floors of the museum, it spanned decades and mediums, and included some of the artist’s major contributions to contemporary art.
The centrepiece of the exhibition was his freestanding stained glass screens and his art-historically significant 'leadworks', monumental inversions and reversals of the basic principles of stained glass, with sheet lead and lead solder becoming primary elements. Also on display were selections from his series ‘Night Orchids’, together with sketchbooks covering five decades of output and a biographical vitrine displaying items from Clarke's childhood through to the present day.
The exhibition curator, Paul Greenhalgh, said:
'Brian Clarke: The Art of Light is about emotional intensity, about the ability of material and light to explore what it is to be human. Two broad themes are brought out in the two galleries, both of which relate to the extraordinary times we are in. The gallery of works in lead are to do with mortality, with memory, grief and loss. The associated suite of Night Orchid paintings adds a physicality to the room, a sensuousness that embodies the cycle of life, death, and rebirth that is fundamental to nature. The gallery of glass screens collectively generates a euphoria and sense of hope. While each screen has a specific subject matter, the transillumination—the flow of colored light—has a spiritual sense of optimism. Taken as a whole, the exhibition is about life and loss, about the closeness of joy and grief in these strangest of times.’