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Press Release

December 7, 2009
Josie Patterson
MIT Museum

MIT Museum Holograms' Visual Wizardry Reflect History, Art and Science

Image: Deep Train
Image: Present Space
Image: Ian
Image: Hand in Jewels
Image: Delta II
Image: The Bartlett Head

One of the first holograms of an object, "Deep Train" by Emmett Leith, Carl Leonard and
Juris Upatnieks was made possible by the invention of the laser.

Dieter Jung's artistic command of wavefront interference is evident in the nuanced mixing of colors that float in front of and behind the image plane of
"Present Space".

"Ian" represents Harriet Casdin-Silver's use of the human body to deepen the expressive capacity of holography.
Photo courtesy of Gallery NAGA

Commissioned by Cartier Jewelers, Robert Schinella's "Hand in Jewels" astonished crowds in the early 1970s.
Photo source: www.holophile.com/ history.htm

"Delta II" demonstrates the novel techniques and exacting control that enabled Rudie Berkhout to build spatial compositions of pure light and color.

"The Bartlett Head", produced by J. L. Benton, S. A. Benton, H. S. Mingace Jr. and W. Houde-Walter, is the first-shown achromatic example of white-light transmission holography, invented by Stephen Benton.


Cambridge, MA - The MIT Museum's second annual "Luminous Windows" winter holography exhibition featuring works by six pioneering artists and scientists runs through March 14. Showcasing works representing the medium's artistic and technical evolution, the exhibition celebrates the visual wizardry of some of the world's foremost holographers.

MIT was the home of holography pioneers such as the late Stephen A. Benton, inventor of the "rainbow holography", that produced holograms visible using common white light and led to mass production techniques and the widespread use of holograms on magazine covers and credit cards.

The MIT Museum has been building on the collection it acquired in 1992 from the former Museum of Holography in New York, which served for 15 years as the primary U.S. forum for holography's artistic and commercial applications.

Light magic

Like photography, holography records light wave patterns scattered from an object on chemically sensitive film. The light The light wave interference pattern coming off the original object is reconstructed when light passes through the holographic film for "replay," changing as the position and orientation of the viewer changes producing a magical 3-D effect.

"Holography is the most advanced imaging technology we have," said Seth Riskin, manager of the MIT Museum's Emerging Technologies and Holography/Spatial Imaging Initiative. "Holography is 'real' virtual reality, and it represents how the human brain and light information interact to create an illusion experience of three-dimensional space."

"Luminous Windows 2010" highlights the interdisciplinary development of holography as a display technology and an artistic medium, Riskin said. Three of the artists in the exhibition—the late Benton, German artist Dieter Jung and Harriet Casdin-Silver--did significant work in holography at MIT.

The exhibition includes a rare public showing of Hand in Jewels, an 18- by 24-inch laser transmission hologram by artist Robert Schinella, produced at the laboratory of McDonnell Douglas Electronics Company, that launched holography from the laboratory to the public. Commissioned in 1972 by the jewelry firm Cartier for its New York City Fifth Avenue display window, the 3D diamond bracelet dangling from an elegant hand, projected out over the sidewalk, astonishing passersby.

The holograms on view in the MIT Museum's windows visible from Mass. Ave. include four works from the museum's renowned collection—the largest and most comprehensive collection of holography in the world—and two, including "Hand in Jewels," on loan from private collections. Some of the works are technological achievements; others are influential artworks that advanced holography as an expressive medium.

"We're proud of the MIT Museum's extraordinary collection of holograms--the best of its kind in the world," said John Durant, director of the MIT Museum. "I'm delighted that in "Luminous Windows" we're able to display several key works, including the famous Cartier "Hand in Jewels" hologram, that haven't been seen by the public for many years. It's great to see the growing interest in holography among both engineers and artists; the field is probably more innovative today than at any time since the 1980s."

The exhibition includes:

  • "Deep Train" (1965)

With the advent of the laser, Emmett Leith, Carl Leonard and Juris Upatnieks, created the first display holograms of an object. The media coverage that followed shaped public understanding of holography as " lens-less photography," bringing the medium magically into the third dimension.

  • "Present Space" (1984)

Internationally known German artist Dieter Jung, former professor of artistic holography and light media at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and research fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, uses the Benton "rainbow" technique as a light palette for freeing color from material objects and painting it in space.

  • "The Bartlett Head" (1978)

Stephen Benton, Jeanne Benton, William Houde-Walter and Herbert Mingace, Jr. use the aesthetic beauty of an ancient Greek sculpture to create the first achromatic white-light transmission hologram, developed and first shown at Polaroid in Cambridge, Mass.

  • "Delta II" (1982)

The late Holland-born artist Rudie Berkhout's technical achievements advanced the subject matter of holography from objects to light itself. He transformed geometric, abstract and symbolic shapes into a holographic space, making use of optical holographic elements that distorted or multiplied the image.

  • "Ian" (1992) On loan, Gallery NAGA

Late American artist Harriet Casdin-Silver's use of the human body as a subject advanced holography as an artistic medium. Casdin-Silver was the first artist to develop frontal-projection holograms, the first to explore white light transmission multi-colored holograms and the first to exhibit outdoor, solar-tracked holograms.

  • "Hand in Jewels" (1972) On loan, Marian B. Javits

The late Robert Schinella was commissioned by Cartier Jewelers of New York City to develop the piece as a window display. Schinella, working at the state-of-the-art Laboratory of the McDonnell Douglas Electronics Company, created the piece as an artwork intended to introduce holography to the public. It was shown in the Cartier window on Fifth Avenue in 1972 and 1979.

  • "Tea Set" (1977-78)

"Wave photography" is how the late Russian artist and physicist Yuri Denisyuk described his 1962 invention that uses light-wave interference to record three-dimensional images. For the first time, holograms could be viewed with ordinary light instead of laser light. White-light reflection holograms became a popular way to display priceless Russian museum treasures in traveling exhibitions. Denisyuk presented this hologram to MIT Professor Stephen Benton (1941–2003), the inventor of white-light transmission ("rainbow") holography.

The curtain goes up on "Luminous Windows 09|10" every evening from sunset to 2 a.m. through March 14, 2010.

For more on holography at the MIT Museum:
The Holography Collection at the MIT Museum

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