Artist’s Choice: Ken Jacobs

December 7, 2013

The artist holds a set of headphones

Ken Jacobs explains that we both see and hear in three-dimensions. December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

Throughout his career, artist Ken Jacobs has explored the relationship between the cinema screen and the human eye. During this workshop he took families on an optical journey through the history of 3-D. His work was on view in the exhibition Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980. In his film “Slow is Beauty”—Rodin, 1974, Jacobs documented his own family creating shadows behind a screen by doing mundane tasks such as moving a chair, bouncing a balloon, or picking up planks of wood. By doing so he looks to estrange everyday actions from their original context, allowing the audience to experience them afresh. Using polarized lights he creates what he calls “3-D shadowplay” where the shadows appear to pop out at you.  Families had the unique opportunity to learn about his practice and to engage with many objects that the artist brought from his home.

The Workshop

  • Families look at Jacob’s work in the galleries, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • To introduce the idea of seeing in 3-D, Jacobs asked families to run their fingers over the glass reliefs on a pair of doors at the Whitney, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • Jacobs brought a series of optical objects for families to look at, including this magnifying lens, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • There were lots of oohs and aahhs as families learned about Jacobs’s work, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • A kid looks at a minimizing lens, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • Jacobs shows families how light can be reflected in 3-D using a sheet of metal, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • A mother teaches her daughter how to shape her mouth around Families close their eyes to experience a 3-D sound environment created by the artist, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • Jacobs shows families a three-dimensional afterimage by using a polarized flash, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • Families learn to focus stereoscopes so that they see old photographs in 3-D, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • A parent and a kid look at old 3-D comics using blue and red glasses, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • Families look at anaglyphs, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • A kid looks closely at the individual images on a strip of film, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • Jacobs shows families one of his films and explains how to make 3-D images on the screen by using a piece of dark colored plastic, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • The artist’s wife, Flo Jacobs, blows bubbles to perform a 3-D shadow play, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • Families watch the performance using polarized lenses, December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton

  • At the end of the workshop families asked Jacobs’s questions about his work and played with the bubble machine! December 2013. Photograph by Jake Naughton