A Short Survey of Rainbows in Art


Maybe it’s this week’s Newsweek cover. Maybe it’s a case of the gloomy Mondays in New York City. Whatever it is, today we want to look at rainbows. Presenting: Art with rainbows, because rainbows are festive and they make us happy. From complicated Rube Goldberg vandal-bike-machines to minimalistic window smudges, from rainbow illusions in strung wire to… erm… pancakes, here’s a small selection rainbow-tastic art we’ve dug up for your ogling pleasure. Enjoy.

Photo credit: Michael Jones McKean via Hyperallergic

We’re setting the bar high with this first one. Artist Michael Jones McKean conjured an actual rainbow. The Rainbow: Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms project runs on renewable energy. It uses collected rainwater and a system of tanks and pressurized nozzles to mist up a perfect, DIY rainbow over the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska. Ooh. Ahh.

Similarly, here’s more magic — a biblical rainbow that, as the story goes, was sent divinely by God to Noah post the flood, saying it’s aiiight, be fruitful and multiply and so forth (Genesis 8–9). It’s depicted with much oomph in the one oldie in our collection — Noah’s Thank Offering (c. 1803) by Joseph Anton Koch.

Photo via Visual News

Contemporary American visual artist Jen Stark culls inspiration from nature and topography by hand-cutting and tightly, deliberately layering hundreds of sheets of color paper for her sculptural piece Abyss. We love the alien, rigid square form of this black, shiny “rock” and the cycling rainbow spectrum of its burrowing cavern. Pretty on the inside?

Photo credit: Gabriel Dawe

Mexican expat artist Gabriel Dawe weaves tradition-inspired large-scale installations from tightly strung Gütermann thread. Contemplating on “the self-organizing forces of nature,” his various Plexus works look like twisted harps, layering into semi-transparent rainbows.

Photo credit: Lotte Stekelenburg

Photo credit: Lotte Stekelenburg

Here’s something delightfully minimal and playful by Netherlands artist Helmuts Smits. Just a few strategic dabs of acrylics and a swipe of the windshield viper and ta-da! — Rainbow .

One of Milwaukee artist/interventionist Adam Nilson’s “Instruments of Destruction (Complicated Technical Solutions to Aid Simple Acts of Vandalism),” the Robo-Rainbow is a Rube Goldberg machine on wheels. It’s constructed from interconnected bike parts, a drill, mechanical bits and a merry arrangement of spray paint cans. Just you watch what it does. It’s cathartic.

Photo via DesignBoom

Photo via Cube Me

Renowned Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson constructed this long, glass corridor on top of the ARoS Museum of Art in Denmark, offering 360 degree views of the city. At each spot of the chamber, the stretched rainbow gradient offers complimentary layers of hued light. It’s mesmerizing.

Photo via Laughing Squid

London-based artist David T Waller’s Car Atlas – Rainbow is simply that, a spiraling arrangement of 2,500 tiny toy cars in incrementally progressing colors of the rainbow. Bumper to bumper traffic has never looked so ecstatic.

Photo via Feature Shoot

Rainbows make everything better. Yes, we know that this Food of the Rainbow series by photographer Henry Hargreaves looks completely inedible. But oddly better, right?

Photo credit: Affair With Color

A drippy, dribbling example of a DIY art rainbow. Because sometimes you just want to glue up some Crayons, bring out the hairdryer and melt stuff.