A Brilliant Violet Flash (Talk)

Excerpt from talk given at UNLV 9.26.2018. Click to play.


What color is an atomic blast, and what does that mean for us in 2018? In this presentation, Brooklyn-based artist Eric LoPresti discusses his artwork, contemporary theories of aesthetics and how thinking about color vision can change our understanding of nuclear weapons. Building on the concept of the “apocalyptic sublime,” this talk leverages imagery from government archives, popular films, scientific literature and the international art scene to challenge our collective experience of beauty and fear in the Anthropocene.

Recent venues

  • UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

  • YSU McDonough Museum (full video with slides)

  • New Mexico State University

  • School of Visual Arts

Video With Slides


Fire as a metaphor

Ref: Stephen Pyne, Fire Historian at ASU

Fire is the context for nuclear weapons AND for art

My work as a painter, and my connection to the subject of nuclear weapons


My paintings on this subject

Nevada Test Site

So what does an artist do in 2018? Visualize the invisible.

What is the color of underground nuclear test: No color? Every color?


Different ways to approach this (huge) subject…


1) The Apocalyptic Sublime (5m)

History in Art (ref: Martin, Turner, Misrach, Paglen …)

Inn contemporary Culture (Ref: exploding planets)


2) Arms Races and Eyes

Arms races, run-away processes and examples of conflict (ref: Richard Prum)

Coevolution of eyes and displays

Beauty & Decadence in Nature

Paintings juxtaposing nuclear weapons ad flowers

Can we consider NTS a kind of terrible/ terrifying artwork?


3) Color in the body (5)

Color as fundamental to evolution (Ref: Peter Warshall)

Octopus, which making color (Ref: Peter Godfrey-Smith)

Race, trauma and Color (Ref: Black Panther)

Relationship to Nevada Test Site


4) Color in the studio

A round trip of light through our body (“Extended phenotype”)

A painting of a decommissioned nuclear submarine reactors (emblematic of my work)



I’ve given you very different way to look at NTS

A war of aesthetics, and a special kind of Fire

The meaning of Nuclear Weapons, like color, is not pre-determined