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Artist, ASU Grad Lights up the Night

Published: Monday, September 19, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 15:09

NIght Gallery Neon

Courtesy ASU Night Gallery

The Night Gallery is now open at Tempe Marketplace.

Before Pasha Rafat became an internationally-recognized artist, he was a Sun Devil.

Rafat graduated from ASU with a degree in design and photography, and now, more than thirty years later, the artists is a professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he coordinates the photography program and teaches various art courses.

Still, the Iranian-born professor still manages to create his own art and over the course of the years has shown in several museums across the globe. Rafat's newest installation – a collection of sculptures that emit colored light – explores the physicality of light by the manipulating of gases contained in various size glass tubes that make up the sculptures and is on display in his old stomping grounds of Tempe.

His art can be seen on evenings at the Night Gallery in Tempe Marketplace until September 25. This is Rafat's first showing in Arizona, so College Times caught up with the artist to get the scoop on the mesmerizing installation which currently has the Night Gallery glowing.

College Times: Would you say that photography and design have always been your main focus?

Pasha Rafat: It's really kind of interesting, because when I came to ASU I was a physics major but I took a photo class, and it caused me to switch majors. Then I became really involved in photography.

Tell us about the exhibit you have at the Night Gallery. What is the main concept behind the different shapes and light?

The tubes are arranged in geometric shapes and they basically reference the geometry which exists in the architecture around us. So when I came into the gallery a few months ago, I looked at the space and made a few pieces that related to the actual architecture of the [building]. But you can also look at them as individual sculptures; the basic premise behind them has to do with the light and color emitted from the pieces to create some sort of atmosphere. The idea behind the work is simple: light, color and space. That's really what I am trying to [show]. The pieces and the light itself make references to the existing architecture.

What inspired this form of art?

I am influenced a lot by a group of artist that came out in the ‘70s. We call them California Light and Space Artists – a group of artists that basically used light and space as their medium. So, like some artists use paint or, say, metal for a sculpture; they used light and space as their medium. I'm influenced by their work; I respond to their work. I'm also into the work that came up in the 1910s and ‘20s by Russian Constructivists, a group of artists that were very experimental with the actual material and with the illusions that they created with the material and a lot of their work dealt with geometry, so I responded to that work too. A lot of the pieces you see in the show really [draw] from those artists.

You've had exhibitions in many places and museums, but this is your first in Arizona. Why Tempe?

I have a lot of connections with Tempe and that's one reason why I want to be showing there, because I want to be connected with ASU, still. I am very excited about this connection and I am very fond of the place where I got my undergraduate degree. I love Tempe and I have a lot friends out there. So the whole thing was a lot of fun for me. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun also.

When gallery goers go see the installation, what is it that you want them to walk away thinking or feeling?

I am looking for that word, you know, "wow", the "ah-ha" in science, they call it. I mean we are all looking for that. I am not really in control of that, though, that all depends on the audience. I think that the pieces are interesting and if I can get those kind of responses, then I am really happy.

Night Gallery, Tempe Marketplace, 2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, 480.734,8064, Ongoing to September 25, Tuesday to Sunday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., free

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