Spencer Finch

American Artist Spencer Finch pursues the most elusive and ineffable of experiences through his work— from the color of a sunset outside a Monument Valley motel room to the afternoon breeze by Walden Pond, the shadows of passing clouds in the yard of Emily Dickinson’s home or the light in a Turner painting.

– from the James Cohan Gallery website

The Color of Water (2011)

Like an Impressionist painter, Finch observed the everchanging tone and colour of the Channel over several weeks throughout 2010. This resulted in a palette of 100 variants of sea colour, which was used to dye 100 flags. Each morning throughout the Triennial, a sea-coloured flag was chosen and hoisted at midday. Its colour determined daily by matching the sea’s with one from Finch’s large colour-wheel, installed just below the western end of main Leas Promenade. (from the Folkstone Triennial website)

It’s worth mentioning the similarity of the work to the Cyanometer an 18th century instrument designed to measure the blueness of the sky.


The simple device was invented in 1789 by Swiss physicist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt who used the circular array of 53 shaded sections in experiments above the skies over Geneva, Chamonix and Mont Blanc. The Cyanometer helped lead to a successful conclusion that the blueness of the sky is a measure of transparency caused by the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. You can learn more at theRoyal Society of Chemistry. (from This is Colossal)

The River That Flows Both Ways

The River that Flows Both Ways – The High Line NYC

Inspired by the Hudson River, Spencer Finch’s The River That Flows Both Ways documents a 700-minute (11 hours, 40 minutes) journey on the river in a single day. The title is a translation of Muhheakantuck, the Native American name for the Hudson, referring to the river’s natural flow in two directions. Like the rail line that existed on the High Line, the Hudson River was, and still is, an active route for the transportation of goods into Manhattan. The river and the High Line have always been linked in their geography, their function, and their imprints on the industrial legacy of the city.

From a tugboat drifting on Manhattan’s west side and past the High Line, Finch photographed the river’s surface once every minute. The color of each pane of glass was based on a single pixel point in each photograph and arranged chronologically in the tunnel’s existing steel mullions. Time is translated into a grid, reading from left to right and top to bottom, capturing the varied reflective and translucent conditions of the water’s surface. The work, like the river, is experienced differently depending on the light levels and atmospheric conditions of the site. In this narrative orientation, the glass reveals Finch’s impossible quest for the color of water.

Other Works


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