Jim Campbell Lecture

Internationally acclaimed visual artist Jim Campbell, designer of a new sculpture for Des Moines’ Cowles Commons, spoke about his work in a lecture Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Iowa State University.

Campbell’s custom electronic sculptures have made him a leading figure in the use of computer technology and video as an art form. He will share his full range of work with a particular focus on the multi-year process of developing and installing the urban light sculpture for the newly reconfigured Cowles Commons, formerly known as Nollen Plaza, adjacent to the Civic Center in downtown Des Moines.

His presentation was part of the ISU Department of Architecture’s Architecture Advisory Council Lecture Series, and was free and open to the public.

Rendering of artist Jim Campbell’s light sculpture installed at Cowles Commons in downtown Des Moines.

Led by 1976 Iowa State landscape architecture graduate Ken Smith of Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect in New York City, the Cowles Commons design team includes Campbell; local firms RDG Planning & Design and general contractor the Weitz Company; Los Angeles-based water-feature design and engineering firm Fluidity Design Consultants; arborists James Urban of Urban Trees and Soils and David Jahn with the City of Des Moines, and ISU architecture Professor Calvin Lewis, who has served as an architectural consultant for Des Moines Performing Arts, which manages the Civic Center and Cowles Commons complex.

Iowa State alumnus Cooper Lewis, Des Moines, who received a Bachelor of Arts in art and design in 2008, helped coordinate the on-site installation of the 5,000 LED lights embedded in Campbell’s sculpture. The effort also involved several ISU architecture students and Des Moines community members.

Lewis; third-year ISU architecture graduate student Heidi Reburn, New Albin; and fifth-year architecture undergraduate student Derick Mauser, Rembrandt, also assisted in the live filming of the Des Moines Marathon to generate abstract imagery for the sculptural installation.

Campbell’s work has been exhibited and published internationally in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and South America, and throughout the U.S. in institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. His electronic artwork is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York City; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; SFMoMA and de Young Museum, San Francisco; and Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, California.

In 2012, Campbell received the SFMoMA’s 13th Annual Bay Area Treasure Award. Previous honors include a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in Multimedia, three Langlois Foundation Grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A monograph of his work, Material Light, was published by Hatje Cantz in 2010. Campbell holds two Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as an engineer holds nearly 20 patents in the field of video-image processing.

Calvin Lewis, Architecture, (515) 294-2665,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,