As a child, Craig Tandy was keenly observant of instances where light seemed to become tangible, as when the thick cigarette smoke in movie theaters made palpable the ethereal shafts of light streaming from the projector, or when a focused beam of sunlight managed to break through a hole in a cloud. Since then, Tandy has produced an impressively vast and varied body of Constructivist-inspired sculpture, and much of his work takes its direct inspiration from the physics and properties of light. His Projection sculptures currently on view in the spacious atrium of the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, Michigan, are a stately series of nylon monofilament sculptures which evoke reflected light through Tandy’s calculated application of geometry and physics.
For his Projections, Tandy radiates strands of nylon monofilament thread outward from a source, creating a form reminiscent of a light-cone. Once Tandy decides the angle at which these cones will strike a surface, simple geometry determines the shapes and forms they’ll then assume. The effect evokes focused lights shining on surfaces at oblique angles, variously illuminating circular or elliptical patches of wall. The illusion is enhanced by the strategic placement of some of his sculptures high among the track-lighting in the museum’s atrium. Other works hang from the wall, framed in deep shadowboxes, and the nylon monofilament within seems to ricochet around their interiors.
My initial response to the cerebral nature of his Projections was to associate them with the mathematically-inspired wire sculptures of Gabo, and Tandy assured me that while his work incorporates a wide variety of influences (Tatlin, Lissisky, Calder, and his early mentor Michael Haydon, for example), Constructivism is indeed the movement with which he most identifies. His works, Tandy writes, apply “physics, mathematics, and engineering as blueprints to realize creative forms,” and, like the Constructivists, he derives inspiration from nature, architecture, and science.
There’s a satisfying visual logic in Tandy’s sculpture. His works rhyme nicely with the early 20th Century Constructivist experiments of Gabo and Tatlin, but in their ever-constant adherence to the physics of light, they also speak to the beauty and elegance of the laws of science and the laws of nature: subjects which transcend any particular movement and remain both timeless and universal.