Exploring the interplay of light and color, afterglow, presents concepts that have evolved over a decade of research, experimentation, and installations by Luftwerk. Through a large-scale immersive wall installation and a series contained light boxes, this exhibition reveals Luftwerk’s interest in the effects of a gradient of light, from brightness to darkness and the shifting perception of colors in different light conditions.
Experimenting with light conditions—from day to night, light to dark—the color-coded wallpaper is activated through shifting color interactions and perceptions. These principles of light and color interactions are contained through a series of corresponding lightboxes. Each featuring a different color, they explore how color lives between light and dark and how this interaction affects spatial sensibilities.
afterglow is Luftwerk’s first solo exhibition at Volume Gallery
What defines common decency, truth, fact or fiction, and even cultural or national identity is changing. Voices expressing intolerant views and protectionist values have more visibility in politics and media. For a variety of reasons, many people around the world feel distress, and the tools we have used to bring relief before, seem to be failing. The rules of engagement for relating to each other and the natural world are changing.
As an artistic duo that explores the physical and psychological effects of color, Luftwerk know that color theory, while rule-bound, is highly personal. Their large-scale, site-specific installations using projected video to explore relationships between material, form, and light maintain a strong focus on the subjective, which highlights the fleeting and context-specific nature of visual experience. In “Color Code,” they expand that inquiry by investigating color as a system of language and symbols, and a marker of emotion.
Drawing on Goethe’s interpretation of color theory, “Color Code” consists of nine paintings—six-feet-by-six-feet colored squares—applied to the gallery’s walls. The paintings, using the International Morse Code system of dots and dashes to spell out “SOS,” are configured with a variation on complementary color patterns, creating a playful visual excursion. In this pattern, the color scheme maintains the consistency of complementary colors, but in a softer, more harmonious manner. Modest lightbox sculptures that mimic the code’s dashes, feature circular panels backlight by color shifting lights.
In Goethe’s theory of color, different hues carry a physical and mental charge for the viewer. Yellow, for example, is imbued with brightness and joy, while red suggests grace and attractiveness, and might evoke feelings of dignity or gravity in a spectator. Goethe also thought of darkness as more than the absence of light, instead considering it an important component to provoking certain emotions. Black, for Goethe, was not simply the absence of color, but a color itself, and accordingly, the gallery walls have been transformed into a black canvas for “Color Code.”
When wireless radiotelegraph machines were introduced on merchant ships in the early 1900s, sailors finally had a way to signal distress and attract attention if needed. Initially, each country had its own distress signal for its fleet, causing confusion in critical moments. Not everyone could understand or recognize the message encoded in the transmitted sound. When the international distress signal “SOS” was adopted in 1908, its easily recognizable and unique code—no other symbol uses more than eight elements—produced aural unity, a sense of calm in life-or-death situations. As “SOS” began to be incorporated into popular culture, it took on textual inference, such as “Save Our Souls,” “Save Our Ship,” or even “Save Our Succor.” Visually, the pattern forms the letters S (three dots) O (three dashes) S (three dots) allowing it to remain an effective visual distress signal, an ambigram that can be read upside down or right side up. As the world adjusts to new norms in challenging times, re-considering how language, objects and symbols, and even color can help us find stable ground and safety no matter where we are.
Essay by Lee Ann Norman
Cleve Carney Art Gallery
Corner of a Square | The Arts Club of Chicago
Looking at the corner of a square, Luftwerk unpacked the Arts Club of Chicago’s iconic staircase designed by Mies van der Rohe with this installation. The 90-degree angular lines in his buildings are also the primary structure of the stair. While these forms have a strong and rigid geometry, there is a lot space within them. To explore this space, Luftwerk created an abstract stepped armature that, when viewed from the correct angle, appears as a square. Rigid lines are softened by the halo emerging from the light outlining the sculpture. This interpretation of Mies highlights the softness of space that exists within strong geometric forms.
This custom-designed structure was created for the garden of the Arts Club of Chicago, bringing the exploration of the interior, outside. From Luftwerk’s research and interaction with buildings by Mies, they see something metaphysical that transcends the materiality and rigid geometry of his architecture. Through this installation they express this quality, framing the space within the framework while diffusing the lines of the piece with the glow of light.
Translucence | Tampa Museum of Art
Translucence experimented with how small shifts can make a large impact in a cultural institution. This simple, yet dynamic design covered all forty-eight panels on the north and south walls lining the atrium and lobby of the Tampa Museum of Art. Visible from both inside and out, the work connected the facing walls in a color dialogue. The project was conceived with the goal to democratize the public area and to engage the community with the museum. When seen from afar, the colors on the two curtain walls interacted in a translucent glow, activating new colors from different perspectives and light situations.
Convergence portrays four different people, who were asked: Where do you go to connect with yourself? Luftwerk filmed each person walking towards and away from the camera within a landscape of his or her choice. Overlapping the videos of the two different movement directions, the scenes construct moments of self-encounters. Four varying convergences were projected onto four curtain walls suspended in the shape of a square. The open square design allowed viewers to pass through the structure and view the image from both the inside and outside. Convergence reflects on the notion of self-encounter accentuated by the physical structure and material of this installation.
SHIFT | Chicago Cultural Center
In a series of choreographed rooms, Luftwerk developed three interactive and immersive installations at the Chicago Cultural Center. Connected together, the three installations each provided a distinct expression and exploration. With a focus on color, light, and space, Shift engaged thousands of visitors of the course of the exhibition.
Materials: Mixed media, 529 painted canvas squares with two channel video projection
Size: 19′ x 19′
In the first of the three rooms, visitors were greeted with Spectrum. A large-scale, digitized and re-imagined color wheel with 529 painted square panels—similar to pixels of colors—covering an entire wall. Once illuminated with animated, colored light, the reception of the colors shift in more than 3,174 tones of red, yellow, and blue. The varying and mixing of colors created nearly endless possibilities for color perception.
Materials: Mixed media, white floor, three color changing LED lights, sound
Size: 30′ x 40′
Synthesis created an interactive environment, animated by the visitors to the exhibition. A series of colored lights in the room set the stage for shadow play and color mixing. As visitors walked through the space, the light cast colored shadows in three different directions. The overlay of lights and shadows animated the interactions in new color combinations. Custom music by Owen Clayton Condon accompanied the experience.
Materials: 2 channel video projection, mixed media, mylar
Size: 20′ x 6′
Challenging perception by examining how light travels and reflects, Threshold engaged visitors in a geometric and rhythmic display. Two 90-degree mirrored panels focus the viewer’s attention at the far end of the gallery. When vertical beams of light met the mirrored panels it caused the light to bend and gave the illusion that the gallery walls contain a portal beyond the actual space of the gallery as a finale to the exhibition.
Download: SHIFT Brochure