31st Oct 2022

The Aesthetic of Exposed Bulbs

Hendrix Pendant Lamp

Currently, people have embraced the aesthetic of exposed bulbs for interior lighting design. Often done under the label of an “industrial” fashion, these interesting hanging fixtures utilize “Edison” bulbs to further their stylization down this tract. This represents a shift in focus away from decorative housings towards the prefabricated components they are meant to hide – an idea very much in line with the modernist ideals of minimalism and functionalism.

Within the world of lighting design, I believe that more credit should be given to the late American artist Dan Flavin in laying the ground-work for this shift in taste in popular aesthetic opinion. Flavin preferred working with prefabricated rather than hand made materials (he mainly used fluorescent tube lamps) as a sort of liberation for his work, allowing him to focus on maximizing the phenomenological aspects of light and color, rather than focusing on the formal body producing them. It is somewhat ironic that his work would help popularize the inverse of this liberation, shifting the focus back toward the fixture, but with an aesthetic preference and appreciation for the prefabricated functional component instead of the decorative and superfluous fixture bodies of traditional lighting design. Donald Judd understood the significance of this liberation and its potential latent aesthetic consequences in his seminal essay, “Specific Objects” –

“Little was done until lately with the wide range of industrial products. Almost nothing has been done with industrial techniques and, because of the cost, probably won't be for some time. Art could be mass-produced, and possibilities otherwise unavailable, such as stamping, could be used. Dan Flavin, who uses fluorescent lights, has appropriated the results of industrial production.”1

The specificity and familiarity of industrially fabricated objects allows them to become molecular in nature – instead of seeing bulbs as heterogeneous conglomerates of raw materials, we take their existence for granted and unconsciously create in them familiar identities – familiar to the extent that we can look past their constructed nature and see them as basic building blocks or atomistic components of a greater whole. This unconscious abstraction has allowed people to see the beauty in bulbs – and to desire them as pieces within well regarded and well designed light fixtures.

This new aesthetic acceptance is delightful, even though it is likely that Flavin would be annoyed by the philosophical inversion that occurs at the core of the trend – I believe Flavin would prefer people be fascinated by the properties of the light itself and how it interacts with the spaces and objects it illuminates rather than to celebrate the bulbs themselves; this seemed to be at the core of his interest and the source of his inspiration as an artist.

Installation by Dan Flavin

Regardless, as proponents of functionalist, modernist and minimalist ideals we embrace the trend of exposed bulb fixtures and offer this selection of lamps featuring exposed bulbs.

Gliese Hanging Lamp

The Gliese Hanging Lamp is like having a bright idea above your head, the Gliese Hanging Lamp has a chrome facade and light bulb shape that will be the conversation piece in any room.

Deborah Slim Pendant

The Deborah Slim Pendant Lamp. Upside down candlestick. Slim style lights up in this simplistic pendant lamp. Minimalist antique bronze frame shines with an exposed bulb, illuminating your entryway or kitchen. Cluster several over a dining table, or spotlight your home office with this modern vintage hanging pendant.

Pilsner Ceiling Lamp

The Pilsner Ceiling Lamp offers Mid-Century Modern styling as multiple golden arms burst from a single golden sphere. This modern ceiling lamp is perfect for adding drama and glamour to any home or office. The Pilsner Ceiling Lamp has a gold electroplated finish.

Bolton 3 Light Floor Lamp

The Bolton 3 Light Floor Lamp. Good style comes in threes. Brighten your living space with the Bolton Floor Lamp. A slender frame slips into corners or next to sofas, while triple glass globes illuminate your modern design. Lighting up your space is as simple as one, two, three with this tall floor lamp shedding light on your favorite novel or adding a soft glow to your den or family room. For radiant light and a chic look you can count on, bring home this glass shade floor lamp.

Pulsar Hanging Lamp

The Pulsar Hanging Lamp is a polar array of exposed 25W G50 bulbs in E12 sockets arranged in random lengths around a chrome spherical core. This modern hanging lamp is in a style often called "sputnik" and is a cool, sleek example of exposed bulb lighting design. The Pulsar Hanging Lamp will be a great, attention getting conversation piece wherever you decided to hang it, and goes especially well over dining tables in modern motif interiors.

Source:http://atc.berkeley.edu/201/readings/judd-so.pdf - Thomas Kellein,Donald Judd: Early Work, 1955-1968,New York: D.A.P., 2002. Originally published in Arts Yearbook 8, 1965.