To help set the tone for its Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era exhibit, the Whitney Museum of American Art has turned to lighting technology from Ocean Optics’ SeaChanger.

New York-based lighting designer Ku’uipo Curry created the lighting installation, working with Whitney assistant curator Henriette Huldisch. Entering the third floor of the museum, visitors are bathed in a shifting swirl of rich light. This first impression sets the mood as they plunge into the American popular culture of the time in the form of psychedelic rock posters, multimedia rooms, archived filmed light shows, and a psychedelic chapel.

The challenge Curry faced in crafting the display was to create an ambience without overpowering the art and other exhibits. “I did not want to create a light show or turn the Museum into a disco or rock concert,” she explaines. “I wanted rich high-chroma light that shifted slowly between colors in a very fluid and elegant way–somewhere between a concert and a lava lamp.”

In order to replicate the morphing, supersaturated effects created by 60s light shows designers mixing colored pigments live, Curry sought out a modern equivalent that would bring the same soft texture of light and found the SeaChanger Wash. Ocean Optics donated eight units to the Whitney Museum to be used throughout the run of the show.

Using patented dichroic filter technology, the units can create a virtually endless palette of stable, reproducible colors that do not shift or fade with time or temperature. SeaChanger’s dichroic filters provide higher transmission efficiency than gels and other filter materials, and their resistance to temperature and humidity eliminates the need for noisy fans. Its novel xG “Extreme Green” filter combines with the CYM color wheels to produce hexachromic colors, expanding the available gamut to include deeper reds, blues, and greens.

“The combination of the super soft light of a Fresnel lens, and gentle shift between high-chroma, rich, saturated colors were just right for this design. The texture of the light is correct, and the chromas and saturation are perfect,” explains Curry.

The SeaChanger Wash’s four-filter color engine and Fresnel lens barrel attach easily to the reflector housing of any ETC Source Four® ellipsoidal spotlight. A manual zoom allows users to adjust the field of view from 20 to 70. Color transitions from 0-100% saturation in less than one second are possible. Each self-contained unit is controlled via 4-channel DMX, RDM device, or its front-panel membrane keypad with three-digital LED display. The SeaChanger Wash is compatible with 575W or 750W HPL and HID lamps, and will accommodate a variety of stage lighting accessories.

In addition to the exceptional light and color quality, the units have functioned well from a practical standpoint. “The units have been on eight to ten hours a day, five days a week, since May and have performed beautifully,” notes Curry.

The show was programmed with an ETC Express™ 48/96 lighting console, and controlled for the run of the show with an ETC Express LPC (Lighting Playback Controller), both donated by ETC. Curry programmed a stack of cues which use contrasting combinations of washes of light and rainbow effects that shift and fade. The Express LPC kept cue stacks in order so that museum staff were able to easily turn the exhibit lighting on and off daily.

ETC also donated three 90° Source Four spotlights, used in the exhibit’s second floor entry. Working with glass gobos from InLight GoBos, Curry used the units to create a pool of textured light that resembles the effect of gasoline on water. The 90° Source Fours worked with the short lighting grid at the Whitney to deliver full coverage. The project was managed by the Lighting Syndicate LLC.

The Whitney Museum of American Art ‘s “Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era” exhibition traces the explosion of contemporary art and popular culture that was brought about by the civil unrest and pervasive social change of The 1960s and early 70s. It celebrates a new psychedelic aesthetic that emerged in art, music, film, architecture, graphic design, and fashion with works by Joshua Light Show, Isaac Abrams, Lynda Benglis, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Indiana, Yayoi Kusama, and Andy Warhol, among others.

Curated by Christoph Grunenberg at Tate Liverpool and originally presented there, the show toured to the Kunsthalle Schirn Frankfurt and the Kunsthalle Wien prior to the Whitney. The exhibition runs through September 16, 2007.