Anthony McCall

Professor at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Anthony McCall (b. 1946) is a New York-based artist who works at the intersection of sculpture, installation, film, and drawing.

Between 1964 and 1968, McCall studied art history, photography, and graphic design at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design in Bromley, UK. A pivotal figure in the London Filmmakers’ Co-op, he moved to New York in 1973. In the same year he began his famous “Solid Light Works”, the first one of which was Line Describing a Cone. “This work is made from a beam of white light emitted from a film projector positioned at one end of a darkened room… Over the course of thirty minutes this line of light traces the circumference of the circle as a projection on the far wall while the beam takes the form of a three-dimensional hollow cone.” (1).

As McCall himself states in 1974, “’[t]he film exists only in the present: the moment of projection. It refers to nothing beyond this real time … the space is real, not referential; the time is real, not referential.’”(2)

Over the next three years, McCall created several of these pieces, all consisting of 16mm film, before stopping to produce art altogether. After a break of more than twenty years, he eventually resumed his work on the Solid Light series. The first of these new works— now using digital projection—was Doubling Back (2003).

In 2010, McCall created a digital remake of Line Describing a Cone entitled Line Describing a Cone 2.0: “The re-make was an exact rendering of the original idea; in fact, more exact than the 1973 original. The original has all kinds of imperfections, since my animation abilities were rather un-schooled… So visually they were very different, but their conceptual DNA was identical. In the end what was interesting to me was that as a work of art being looked at by an assembled audience, the two films, despite their visual differences, worked in exactly the same way. But it is beginning to look like the difference between film and digital will continue to increase. For instance, as our eyes adjust to increasingly brighter, sharper, digital projectors and screens, my solid light works on film by comparison will presumably seem dimmer and even more hand-made than they do now. (3)

While most of his earlier works were oriented horizontally, the Breath series, begun in 2004, marks a rupture toward verticality. Among his vertical works are Meeting You Halfway (2009), Coupling (2009) and Between You and I (2006), of which he claims: “You can enter the vertical forms of Between You and I completely without interruption, so it seems to emphasize the veils, which are thresholds between the inside and the outside of the work. There’s a sense in which it’s possible for you to be surrounded by them without intercepting or interrupting the projection and so also the form itself.“ (4)

In his more recent work, McCall aims to converge the horizontal and the vertical. As he elucidates in an interview with Frieze: “The experience of a horizontal work is something like being immersed in water; a vertical work, on the other hand, towering above your head, can be walked all around, and therefore can be occupied. My most recent solid-light installation though, Coming About (2016), is neither horizontal nor vertical; it is based on two diagonally oriented forms which converge on the floor. As an experience it is very different from the earlier pieces. I am still figuring out just how this plays, but the converging, slanting beams seem to be disorienting to a surprising degree.” (5)

McCall’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Tate Britain (2004), Centre Pompidou (2004), Serpentine Gallery London (2007-2008), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2009), Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2009) or Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2012), to name but a few.

Recent solo exhibitions include “Anthony McCall: Crossing [It’s A World View: The Tim Fairfax Gift]”QAGOMA, Brisbane (2016-2017); “Anthony McCall: Swell”, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada (2016-2017); “Anthony McCall: Solid Light, Performance and Public Works”, Fundacio Gaspar, Barcelona, Spain (2016); “Leaving (With Two-Minute Silence)”, Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris (2016); and “Anthony McCall: Solid Light Works”, LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura, Lugano, Switzerland (2015-2016).

Among McCall’s recent group exhibitions are “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016”, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016-2017); “About Time: Photography in a Moment of Change”, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA (2016); “Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards”, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (2016); and “¡DARK!” (Center for International Light Art Unna, Germany, 2015-2016).

Mc Call’s works are in a range of major collections, including Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki; Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Musée National d’Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

In 2016, McCall received an Arts and Letters Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2008, he was also awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

  1. (last accessed March 14, 2017)
  2. Anthony McCall, ‘Two Statements’ (1974), in P. Adams Sitney (ed.), The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism, New York 1978, p.250., cited in: ibid.
  3. ‘Anthony McCall with Jarrett Earnest’, in The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics, and Culture, October 3rd, 2014; (last accessed March 14, 2017)
  4. ‘Anthony McCall’ by Stephen Johnstone Graham Ellard, in BOMB Magazine-Artists in Conversation, BOMB 97/Fall 2006; (last accessed March 14, 2017)
  5. ‘Solid Light’, by Hatty Nestor, 9 June 2016, (last accessed March 14, 2017)