Occupying a space between cinema, sculpture, and drawing, his work’s historical importance has been recognized in such exhibitions as “Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art 1964-77,” Whitney Museum of American Art (2001-2); “The Expanded Screen: Actions and Installations of the Sixties and Seventies,” Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna (2003-4); “The Expanded Eye,” Kunsthaus Zurich (2006); “Beyond Cinema: the Art of Projection,” Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2006-7); “The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Projected Image,” Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC (2008); and “On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century,” Museum of Modern Art (2010–11).
McCall studied graphic design and photography at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design, Bromley, Kent, England from 1964-1968.
McCall was a key figure in the avant-garde London Film-makers Co-operative in the 1970s. His earliest films are documents of outdoor performances that were notable for their minimal use of the elements, most notably fire.
After moving to New York in 1973, McCall continued his fire performances and developed his 'solid light' film series, beginning with Line Describing a Cone, in 1973. Based on simple, animated line-drawings, these projections strikingly emphasize the sculptural qualities of a beam of light. In darkened, haze-filled rooms, the projections create an illusion of three-dimensional shapes, ellipses, waves and flat planes that gradually expand, contract or sweep through space. In these works, the artist sought to deconstruct cinema by reducing film to its principle components of time and light and removing the screen entirely as the prescribed surface for projection. The works also shift the relationship of the audience to film, as viewers become participants, their bodies intersecting and modifying the transitory forms.
At the end of the 1970s, McCall withdrew from making art. Some twenty years later, he acquired a new dynamic and re-opened his 'solid light' series, this time using digital animation and digital projection rather than 16mm film. The first of the new works, “Doubling Back” (2003) was exhibited at the 2004 Whitney Biennial. McCall developed the use of a slow-moving cinematic ‘wipe’ in order to combine and separate two opposing forms within one volumetric object; the new works also explored the extended cyclical ‘installation’ structure that he had first developed in the film-based work of the seventies. New installations included “You and I, Horizontal” (2006), “Leaving, with Two-Minute Silence” (2009), and “Face to Face” (2013).
McCall also developed a parallel series of vertically oriented works, starting with “Breath” (2004) in which a projector mounted on the ceiling projects directly downwards onto the floor, creating a ten-metre-tall, tent-like, almost architectural enclosure with a 4-metre wide base. Other vertical works included “Between You and I“ (2006), “Meeting You Halfway” (2009), and “Coupling” (2009).
The first survey exhibition of McCall’s work in an international institution took place at the Serpentine Gallery London, in 2007-8. This included early performance films, horizontal solid light works, and works on paper. The vertical works were first exhibited as a solo show (“Breath: The Vertical Works”) at Hangar Bicocca, Milan in 2009. The horizontal and vertical works were combined in a solo show at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (“Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture”) in 2012.
McCall has recently embarked on a new series, which utilize slanting beams, projected from ceiling-to-floor at a 45 degree angle. Originating from two widely separated projectors mounted on the ceiling, the beams converge at the floor, creating a single, superimposed ‘footprint’. Works include “Coming About” (2016) and the four-projector installation, “Crossing” (2016).Artists Space, New York, 1974, 1976
The Clocktower, New York, 1974.
Collective for Living Cinema, New York, 1974, 1975
London Film-Makers’ Cooperative, London, 1974, 1975
Millennium Film Workshop, New York, 1974, 1976
Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England, 1974.
Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1975.
Serpentine Gallery, London, 1975.
Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Paris, 1976.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976
Centre Pompidou / Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris, 2004.
Tate Britain, London, 2004.
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2005.
Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2005.
Musée Départemental d’Art Contemporain, Rochechouart, France, 2007.
Serpentine Gallery, London, 2007–2008.
Hangar Bicocca, Milan, 2009.
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2009.
Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2012.
Tate Tanks, London, 2012.
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Die Lokremise, Switzerland, 2013.
Les Abattoirs, Toulouse, 2013.
Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam, 2014.
LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura, Lugano, Switzerland, 2015.
Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, 2015.
Fundació Gaspar, Barcelona, Spain, 2016.
Gallery House, London, 1972. A Survey of the Avant-Garde in Britain.
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1976. The Festival of Expanded Cinema.
Documenta 6, Kassel, Germany, 1977.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2001–2002. Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964–1977.
Tate Modern, London, 2002. Shoot Shoot Shoot: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Cooperative & British Avant-Garde Film 1966–76.
Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK), Vienna, 2003–2004. X-Screen: The Expanded Screen: Actions and Installations of the Sixties and Seventies.
Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV), Dortmund, Germany, 2004. Expanded Cinema: Film as Spectacle, Event and Performance.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2004. Whitney Biennial.
ZKM | Museum für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2005–2006. Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht.
Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2006–2007. Projections: Beyond Cinematic Space.
Kunsthaus Zürich, 2006. The Expanded Eye.
Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt, 2007. Das Kapital: Blue Chips & Masterpieces.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), 2007. Project, Transform, Erase: Anthony McCall and Imi Knoebel.
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 2008. Notation: Calculation and Form in the Arts.
Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 2008. The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality, and the Moving Image.
Orchard, New York. 2008. Spring Wound.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010-11. On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century.
Fundação Serralves, Porto, Portugal, 2011. Off the Wall. Curated by Chrissie Iles.
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, 2012. Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974.
Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2012-13. Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974.
Hayward Gallery, London, 2013. Light Show.
SFMoMA, San Francisco, 2016. About Time: Photography in a Moment of Change. Curated by Corey Keller.
Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne
Sprüth Magers Berlin London
Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris
Luciana Brito Galeria, Sao Paulo
Trish Clark Gallery, Auckland