Bemis Center presents Michael Jones McKean's The Rainbow

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Michael Jones McKean, The Rainbow, 2011 (test).

Michael Jones McKean
The Rainbow: Certain Principles
of Light and Shapes Between Forms

June 1–September 15, 2012

Opening weekend: June 21–23
Exhibition & project tours: every Thursday, 6pm

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 S 12th Street
Omaha Nebraska 68102

T 402 341 7130


Michael Jones McKean's The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms creates a simple but phenomenal visual event—a rainbow in the sky. The public artwork will produce temporary rainbows above the Bemis Center using the most elemental materials: sunlight and rainwater. Twice per day with clear sun, for 20 minutes each, a rainbow will appear above Bemis Center's downtown building.

This commissioned artwork and exhibition represents extensive cross-disciplinary collaboration. Irrigation and rainwater harvesting experts from Omaha-based Lindsay Corporation and Watertronics, structural and mechanical engineers, atmospheric scientists, plumbing and electrical experts have joined McKean in creating a wholly integrated system for this site-specific work. McKean's work will amplify the placeless, celebratory, seductive, and elusive qualities of the spectacular event of a rainbow.

Leading up to the exhibition, extensive modifications to the Bemis Center's five-story, repurposed industrial warehouse took place—creating a completely self-contained water harvesting and large-scale storage system. Throughout the project cycle, collected and recaptured storm water will be filtered and stored in six above-ground, 10,500 gallon water tanks. Within the gallery, a custom designed 60-horsepower pump supplies pressurized water to nine nozzles mounted to the 20,000 square foot roof of the Bemis Center. In the morning and early evening, a dense water-wall will be projected above the building in which a rainbow will emerge. Based on atmospheric conditions, vantage point, available sunlight and the changing angle of the sun in the sky, each rainbow will have a singular character and quality—one could see the rainbow from a thousand feet away or seemingly touch it with your hand.

A rainbow operates as an egalitarian visual experience. It is by nature temporary, undetermined, and wonderful. The Rainbow exists somewhere between real and representation, actual and artifice. McKean is deeply interested in the rainbow as a complex form—ephemeral and steeped in mythology—that possesses an out-of-time existence as pure optical phenomena. The image of a rainbow extends through time, surpassing our known and archived histories, and operates as a constant unchanged form. Although the symbol of a rainbow has been co-opted, politicized, branded, and commodified, an actual prismatic rainbow still has an ability to jolt us from the everyday. It feels hopeful, yearning, optimistic, ghost-like, and meaningful.

The Rainbow is a work of significant logistical complexity that realizes a silent, delicate, and temporary visual experience. The work provides a direct and momentous experience of art, science, ecology, and wonder.

The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms is curated by Hesse McGraw, Bemis Center chief curator.

About the artist
Michael Jones McKean (Truk Island, Micronesia, 1976) is an internationally recognized American artist. He is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Nancy Graves Foundation Award, and an Artadia Award. McKean has been in residence at The Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; The International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York City; The Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center; the Bemis Center; The Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, Montana; and ThreeWalls, Chicago, Illinois.

McKean's work is represented by Horton Gallery in New York City and Gentili Apri in Berlin, Germany. He is an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Sculpture and Extended Media Department.

About the Bemis Center
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts was founded in 1981 by artists, for artists. Bemis Center's sole mission is to support contemporary artists of exceptional talent. In this spirit, the Bemis Center seeks to perpetually give the institution to artists working at the forefront of contemporary culture. Our international artist-in-residence program, exhibitions, projects, and community arts programs provide direct support to artists' process and catalyze their work to engage and challenge the public.

For more information contact Logan Seacrest, Bemis Center communications manager at

The Rainbow Lead Sponsor: Lindsay Corporation
The Rainbow Sponsors: Carol Gendler, Marathon Realty; Todd and Betiana Simon Foundation; Snyder Industries, Inc.; Rybin Plumbing & Heating; Davis Erection and Crane Rental & Rigging; Mobile Roadie; North Sea Films, Inc.
Additional Project Partners: Joseph A. Zehnder; Education Power, Robert Webber; Warren Distribution; Project Projects
Bemis Center Exhibitions Presenting Sponsor: Omaha Steaks

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