Lighting design

How artist Jason Krugman turns power into striking light sculptures

Jason Krugman’s mesmerizing light sculptures feature wire mesh forms studded with thousands of hand-soldered LED bulbs. We spoke to the designer after he recently winning a LIT Lighting Design Award for his project, Capella Basket.

We know it’s hard to believe but before he mastered the art of light, New york-based artist Jason Krugman worked in investment banking. Once upon a time at Goldman Sachs, he processed structured credit trades with no idea that the impending collapse in 2007 would change his life dramatically. 

That year, Krugman returned to school to study technology and art, inspired by the burgeoning use of electricity and code to create interactive art. He enrolled at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU and learned about microcontrollers, soldering, digital fabrication and new materials.

Fast forward to 2009 and Krugman founded his own studio in Brooklyn, where he is still based today, working at the intersection of physical computing and fine art, and harnessing the power of electricity to create striking sculptures. 

Based around the design and execution of new types of LED artworks, Krugman’s work captures a stunning fluidity using static materials, mimicking what would today be recreated using hundreds, if not thousands, of mini-drones. 

Equally impressive are his credentials. Krugman has developed a hand-soldered LED mesh, several cable systems, and a variety of custom printed circuit boards for LED artworks. He also holds two US patents and has numerous permanent LED installations in the United States and Europe. 

Motivated to discover new ways of arranging light in three dimensions, his lighting designs often use their physical structure to conduct electricity to the light sources, which eliminates the need for insulated wiring and connectors allowing thousands of lights to sit softly amongst minimal wire forms, seemingly floating in midair. 

After hearing that Jason Krugman had won a LIT Lighting Design Award for his project, Capella Basket—a rectangular sheet of 2,000 LED bulbs rolled like a cannoli and seamed on its opposing side—we couldn’t hold ourselves back any longer and spoke to the artist to find out more…

Jason Krugman - portrait
Based around the design and execution of new types of LED artworks, Krugman’s work captures a stunning fluidity using static materials – ©Jason Krugman Studio

Who is Jason Krugman? How did your journey in design begin?

Jason Krugman: “I was trying to study the world in my own way, as we all do as children. My inclination was towards built things and how things connect. When I discovered electricity and code as an adult, that’s when I really got inspired. I love to use my eyes and hands and keep the work primarily physical with some support from the digital world. A friend once told me that I’m like a child, who upon discovering something is eager to share it with you.”

Jason Krugman - Meshes
Meshes by Jason Krugman – ©Jason Krugman Studio

Why focus on sculptural lighting?

Jason Krugman: “It is a three-dimensional puzzle, driven by an aesthetic sense of function and usefulness. The artwork’s beauty arises from its form but is deepened by what it is able to do. Things that behave as they are made allow us to investigate them with our minds and curiosity. This is what gives people pleasure about my work. I am learning by making my work and creating functional beauty. My work is shaped by its ability to efficiently distribute electricity.”

Jason Krugman - Trelli Truss
Trelli Truss is a light sculpture made from two hexagonal layers of flexible circuit boards – ©Jason Krugman Studio

Your work is characterized for combining craft with technology. What is the hardest part in doing so? And what have you learned and discovered through experience in this process?

Jason Krugman: “It has been a blessing and curse to work on such a multitude of projects, with so many different ideas and a huge variation of the scale of my work. We always build small versions and mockup sections of our artworks, no matter the scale or number of editions we are making. This is the only way we manage to succeed.”

Jason Krugman - Long Tube
Long Tube is part of the collaboration between Jason Krugman Studio and designer Michael DeFalco to create two unique LED forms for his home at Fire Island Pines – ©Jason Krugman Studio

You recently received a LIT Design Award for your Capella Basket. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this light installation and how this project came to be?

Jason Krugman: This is a shape that I have been working with for almost 10 years. Its inspiration comes from methodically folding sheets of mesh material and trying to interconnect their edges. I asked myself the question, “is it possible to shape a square sheet of mesh into a sphere without folding it?” I think the answer is, “it depends on the properties of your mesh”. LOL. It gets a lot deeper than that but I am going to leave it there for now.”

Are you a lighting designer? LIT Design Awards 2021 celebrate the highest quality of lighting design – Apply now!

Jason Krugman - Capella Basket
Jason Krugman Studio created Capella Basket, its largest sculpture to date, a 22ft x 22ft x 16ft centerpiece for Capella Tower in Minneapolis, MN – ©Jason Krugman Studio

The Capella Basket is made from an electrified mesh of over 10,000 circuit boards. How did you go about your prototyping phase when designing such a big-scale installation?

Jason Krugman: “It was wonderful to have the support of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and also other local businesses. We needed a lot of space and also space with very high ceilings. We worked with Arup engineers to help us better understand the stresses on the sculpture’s frame and then built the sculpture at least 5 times at smaller scales before embarking on the creation of the final, full-scale artwork.”

Inspired by the “wiring” of organic creatures, Jason Krugman’s Capella Basket sculpture uses a new electrical medium to rout energy through space – ©Jason Krugman Studio

What kind of feedback and reaction do you receive when people pass by your light installations?

Jason Krugman: “I often hear that my artwork reminds people of forms of scientific literature and in nature. I love when people share the work of other artists and of creatures that are using similar shapes and techniques. This contributes fuel to my creative fire and connects me to my audience through collaboration.”

Jason Krugman - Helix
Helix by Jason Krugman Studio was fabricated and installed as part of a double-helix brass and LED sculpture for the Nieuw Statendam – ©Erik Jenkins-Sahlin

What’s next for Jason Krugman?

Jason Krugman: I will try to make more complex forms while at the same time making it possible for people to understand their structures from a quick glance. I will also work more with folding and stretching techniques to create surfaces using different types of materials.

Most of my work so far has been based around points and lines. The logical next step would be to delve deeper into creating surfaces. I am starting to post more small sculptures for sale on my Instagram and website (@jasonkrugman, so please follow and stay tuned!”

Interested to know more about the LIT Design Awards? Don’t miss the Winners of the 2020 edition!

Jason Krugman - Reef
Created by Jason Krugman Studio, Reef is modeled after a nebulous aquarium – ©Erik Jenkins-Sahlin