Exact Dutch Yellow | Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Cultural Center, Exhibit Hall, October 8, 2022 – January 29, 2023
Exact Dutch Yellow presents abstracted, atmospheric sculptural light installations that refuse to offer a singular prescription for how to view them. To stand in front of, or rather within, these works is to experience the phenomenon of color both optically and physically but with an awareness that whatever you experience will be unique and ineffable. At the heart of the exhibition, underscored by its title, is the tacit acknowledgment that for all of its visibility, for all its presence, color—or at least how we name, classify, and experience it—remains subjective if not outright illusive.
A play on words and the act of naming, Exact Dutch Yellow references how subjective both the impression and classification of color was and remains. In Patrick Syme’s book, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, “Dutch Orange” is described by the crest of a gold-crest wren, the common marigold, and a streak of red orpiment, an arsenic sulfide mineral. When the noted English biologist Charles Darwin (1809-1882), for example, embarked on his now famous journey aboard the HMS Beagle between 1831-1826, he brought along Syme’s book and used it extensively. Darwin often used the exact phrasing to describe the creatures he encountered, for example a “French grey” octopus that changed shades from a “Hyacinth red” to a “Chesnut brown.” Darwin, however, occasionally ad-libbed, altering “Dutch Orange” to “Exact Dutch Yellow” when he published his Beagle Zoology Notes.
Ways of Seeing
ZUVA | Dzimbanhete
Zuva is a site-specific sculptural space merging local traditions of healing and architecture with contemporary color and light work.
Inspired by traditional African architecture, and in collaboration with local cultural experts, CTG Collective invited Luftwerk to create and realize Zuva. This permanent space and color/light installation is built using local materials and labor, as well as traditional Zimbabwean building techniques. A major accomplishment of the project is the installation of a 5KW off-grid solar system to provide power to the work, the Dzimbanhete Arts and Culture center and its surrounding community. The hybrid space/sculpture is activated by Dzimbanhete as a hybrid art, sound healing, and space for dialogue.
Zuva means sun, but the Shona language dives deep into the conceptual Zuva, which actually means day, or better said, the movement of the sun across the sky during a day. The yellow exterior represents the sun. The blue interior represents the night. The dome ceiling is airbrushed with gradient yellow to blue, illuminated via color changing LED.
COLORSCAPES | Cheekwood
Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, Nashville, TN
May 7-September 4, 2022
The contemporary understanding of color has a rich and complex history, whether through the histories of plant-based pigments like indigo, or the development of color theory through the discourses of Enlightenment-era writers, scientists, and naturalists. One of the most significant examples of the latter is the Scottish artist Patrick Syme’s Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours. First published in 1814 and based on the groundbreaking work of German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner, the book presented a taxonomic guide to the colors of the natural world and was a precursor to the modern Pantone system. Color—and more specifically the color classified in Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours—serves as the conceptual springboard for a vibrant site-specific takeover at the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens by the Chicago-based collaborative Luftwerk (Petra Bachmaier & Sean Gallero). In this unique context, COLORSCAPES will explore how the historic, yet fundamental scientific knowledge of color, perception, and nature can inform and connect us to the natural world today.
COLORSCAPES consists of a series of dynamic outdoor installations and gallery interventions. Set along a prescribed path, the exhibition unfolds across Cheekwood’s Cheekwood’s Bradford Robertson Color Garden, Arboretum Lawn, and Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden before moving up to the portico of the Historic Mansion & Museum and into its more intimately scaled galleries. Inside, Luftwerk has created a series of immersive color and light installations using botanical colors in combination with color changing light conditions that transform into abstracted, atmospheric experiences. Whether using natural pigments, exploring the phenomenon of light and color in the sky, or building on the histories explored in the gardens, the works installed in the galleries are informed by a holistic perception of the natural world and an interconnected ecology. “Unity through variety” is the mantra of this site-specific exhibition, which will offer a multi-layered journey that responds to and connects with the different gardens, architecture, and collections of Cheekwood.
Chiaro Oscuro | Volume Gallery
Chiaro Oscuro—Luftwerk’s second exhibition at Volume Gallery, Chicago—is an exploration of the varying modes and forms of gradient light. The word chiaroscuro literally means bright/dark and refers to the use of contrasts within art compositions. Situating this concept of contrast, difference and changeability as a point of departure, four light-based sculptural works illuminate the gallery, evoking a sense of flux. By using the power of reflection and perception to imply and summon a point of disappearance—a threshold is invoked.
Soleil Levant No. 1 Yellow to Blue
A cone shaped wall sculpture. Its interior surface is painted in a radiant gradient with yellow in its center fading into blue; this painted surface illuminates and activates via color changing perimeter lighting. As color shifting light interacts with the painted surface of the sculpture at times the color seems to breathe, expand and recede, an interplay of light and dark, day and night. This sculpture captures the interplay of color in interaction with light. “Yellow is the color nearest the light. Blue: as yellow is always accompanied with light, so it may be said that blue still brings a principle of darkness with it.… Color itself is a degree of darkness.” J. W. von Goethe
In two works called, Vanishing Horizon and Vanishing On End eight straight lines of white neon discretely taper down in length towards nothingness suggesting the spatial depth of an edge. Recessing to an imagined endpoint, a place beyond the horizon. Inspired by concepts of spatial perception, these two unique pieces draw upon a linear one point perspective. While emanating light the pieces intend to draw attention to the negative space of a given wall, illuminating a space open for imagination, what’s beyond?
Projected light and reflective surfaces activate the restrained palette of Frequency No. 1, an undulating wall-mounted sculpture composed of mirrored stainless-steel strips, which mimics the surface of a seascape in motion. Illuminated by lights from above, the sculpture transforms its surroundings into an ethereal play of pattern between light and shadow. Frequency No. 1 is informed by Luftwerk’s interest in data visualization and their multi-year long project titled White Wanderer that sonifies seismic data sets collected by Douglas MacAyel, a world renowned glaciologist who observes motion of glaciers and sea ice in Antarctica.
Parallel Perspectives | Elmhurst Art Museum
Parallel Perspectives uses color and light interventions to activate and interpret the McCormick House (1952) designed by Mies van der Rohe. This installation heightens the senses and alters the perception while celebrating the mid-Century prefab prototype. The exhibition title refers to the paired prefab sections of the McCormick House, and the works in this show inspired by the conceptual framework of Mies.
The installation includes several works with static and dynamic color relationships, including an immersive light piece that transforms a bedroom, parallel neon light pieces with mirrored effects, pulsing lightboxes, and a colorful glass cube. The visual effects impact the experiences and spatial perceptions of the viewer throughout the domestic environment.
Part of Bauhaus100, the global anniversary celebrations of the legendary German art school. It continues Luftwerk’s year-long exploration of architecture by Mies, which began with the Barcelona Pavilion and will end with the Farnsworth House.
Linear Sky | 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City
Responding to the form and function of the entrance hallway at 21c Kansas City, Luftwerk’s Linear Sky features light fixtures that vary in length, producing an anamorphic optical illusion of an expanding, outward pattern of line and color upon both entering and exiting the ramp. The hues from one direction differ from those in the opposite, acting like a multi-colored mirror of each other and differentiating the experience of moving into or out of the hallway. The LEDs are programmed with a lighting sequence inspired by the changing hues of the outdoor skies above the urban landscape of Kansas City: the palette of bright morning saturates the walls that greet visitors, while the glow of waning daylight colors envelop those en route to the outdoors. Evoking the span from dawn to dusk and back again, Linear Sky juxtaposes day and night, nature and technology, past and present, welcoming visitors into a space of the future. The vertical light fixtures installed on monochromatic walls reference the aesthetics of Minimalism, and create a strong, contemporary contrast to the historic patterning on the floor and the ornate pilasters on the walls. The geometric interplay of the vertical and the horizontal within this narrow, ramp leading to and from the lobby both highlights and transforms the architecture, offering visitors views of a new horizon from either direction.
afterglow | Volume Gallery
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
Haze is permanently installed at 360 W Erie Street, Chicago IL
Color Code | Cleve Carney Museum of Art
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 Museum of Art
Solarise | Garfield Park Conservatory
Solarise: A Sea of All Colors, 2015
Garfield Park Conservatory is lauded as one of the great architectural masterpieces in Chicago. Completed in 1907 by the famed landscaped architect Jens Jenson this revolutionary building opened as the largest conservatory in the world. The glass structure contains distinct gardens connected by a series of contiguous pathways runnning throughout the space. Majestic gardens present both contemporary and prehistoric plants in this vibrant environment. In 2011, a storm caused significant damaged to the glass building and the plants within the conservatory.
As part of an effort to raise awareness and draw public attention to the conservatory and rehabilitation efforts, Luftwerk was commissioned to create a series of year-long installations throughout the conservatory. Solarise: A Sea of All Colors contained five distinct installations; each in a different garden, developed with a distinct point of view to frame, highlight, and interpret important elements of the garden.
Perception of color by plants varies greatly from humans. Through photosynthesis of the light spectrum, plants only register two colors: blue as the direction for growth and red as an indication to bloom. Florescence reflected this phenomenon in a canopy of 880 blue and red translucence petal shapes in the Show House of the conservatory. This canopy was activated by light shining through the glass ceiling. Throughout the day, the rising and setting of the sun resulted in a series of colored shadows cast across the floor and the plants below; a visual abstraction of this plant process.
Seed of Light
Seed of Light highlighted the simple essence of water. The kinetic chandelier of lit acrylic circular trays reflected water ripples from single drops of water falling onto the trays. As drops of water hit the tray beneath the light shining on the chandelier cast sparkling shadows from these ripples across the floor of the conservatory. The circular geometry of the sculpture was inspired by the universal symbol of creation, the Flower of Life.
Developed as both an installation and performance, Prismatic was an abstract interpretation of the geometry within desert plants. This series of five rotated and extended triangular acrylic frames appeared to hover above the cacti in the garden. In the day, the interaction of the sunlight shining through the glass roof with acrylic spokes refracted and cast unique light shapes throughout the garden. In the evening, Prismatic was illuminated by pin-spot LED lighting, casting rainbows across the conservatory’s Desert House. An original music composition by Owen Clayton Condon used cacti from the conservatory’s collection and accompanied the suspended sculpture.
The Beacon welcomes evening visitors to the Conservatory. LED nodes line and highlight the vertical structure of the glass building. The nodes translate a live data feed gauging the course and speed of wind passing through Chicago in a dynamic display. This visual interpretation abstracts data to highlight the natural environment surrounding the unique ecosystem of nature within the Conservatory. Developed as a permanent installation, this permanent piece leaves a mark of the Solarise exhibition.
CS Modern Interiors
New Media Caucus—College Art Association
Condé Nast Traveler
The Architect’s Newspaper
Time Out Chicago
Chicago Reader | People Issue 2015
The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studio
Luminous Field | Millennium Park
Luminous Field transformed the Millennium Park into a digital canvas of motion, light, and geometrical form as the first site-specific video and sound installation in the park. The ten-day installation illuminated Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and the AT&T Plaza, with dramatic images and colors set to music composed by Owen Clayton Condon.
The work comprised of projections that video-mapped the tiles of the plaza creating a digital mosaic. Inspired by Italian marble floors, the tessellation patterns, the digital mosaic added a new, contemporary layer to the work. Animation of the video composition became an informal hopscotch as visitors tried to anticipate the movement and follow along. The projections interacted with the reflective surface of Cloud Gate in a new, altered state. The piece, a digital playground for the public, attracted over 65,000 visitors to the park.
Luminous Field has been featured in Time magazine, the Chicago Tribune, gestaltens’ book Going Public.