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.

Portrait 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.

New City

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


Chicago Tribune


White Wanderer | NRDC booth at EXPO Chicago

White Wanderer, an intervention of sound and light

Developed from relationships with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a glaciologist at the University of Chicago, this project launched in October 2017 with two iterations: 2 Riverfront Plaza and another at Art Expo Chicago. The immersive installation at 2 Riverside Plaza was comprised of a visual representation at 1:5000 scale of the 120-mile long crack on the side of the building paired with a custom sound recording of the iceberg. Sound recordings of Larsen-C covered the plaza with a prominent frequency; at times the city and iceberg sounds correlate to one another and at other times they are in conflict. The haunting, eerie iceberg sound is animalistic with a depth that connects on a visceral level, stirring curiosity to create awareness and action. The White Wanderer exhibition at EXPO Chicago presented artistic interpretations of the Larsen-C ice shelf, including: a light sculpture mimicking ice flow, prints tracing satellite images of Arctic ice flows, and interpretations of radar readings from ice distress.


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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.

INTO AND OUT OF | The Franklin

This site-specific installation was developed as a pair of extended and compressed mirrored portals. INTO and OUT of fragmented and reflected the interior of THE FRANKLIN gallery space and the surrounding exterior environment. This experimental installation used the reflective surfaces, depth of field, and site conditions to manipulate the perspective and experience of the space. Luftwerk developed this using all the material from each panel with no waste—some forms were designed to create an open space to go into, while others were created out of the negative space from the design. The mirrored, front-facing side of the installation was contrasted with the back black and created an unexpected void to highlight the negative and positive space within the work.

Convergence | Open End Gallery

Convergence Luftwerk 01

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.

Spectrum, 2013
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.

Synthesis, 2013
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.

Threshold, 2013
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.



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