1/24th Light Over Light | Volume Gallery
Volume Gallery, Chicago, IL, Nov 3rd – Dec 16th, 2023
Achromatic surfaces at first glance subsequently reveal radiant auras of subtly colored light. The concealed verso sides of the pieces employ surfaces painted fluorescent colors to reflect glowing ambient light on the surrounding wall. With these sculptural works, shades reveal gestures that capture a passage of light, simulations of the orange light at dawn or an hour passing in the afternoon. The work is minimal, presenting moments to hold still.
In the tentative
darkness of the
raisins there was
half of the
then the shadow
of the past
From “No Sky” by Etel Adnan, translation from French by Sarah Riggs
Scenography of Space | Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg
SCENOGRAPHY OF SPACE, Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg, June 2023
An inspiration for this installation SCENOGRAPHY OF SPACE, which brings together visual art & film, was Hans Richter’s film “Rhythmus 21”. Hans Richter was an important 20th century German artist and filmmaker known for his avant-garde works. One of his notable films, “Rhythm 21” from 1921 is considered one of the earliest abstract films ever made and has been called a “key film of modernism.” In this film, Richter explored the representation of abstract forms, movements, and rhythms. The film consists of trick moving geometric shapes and patterns. Black and white squares appear in fades up and down on the screen. They sometimes appear to move from one side of the frame to the other, sometimes from foreground to background.
Rhythm was shot in black and white and lasts about 3 minutes – as does the installation Scenography of Space. “Rhythm” had a profound influence on many subsequent artists and filmmakers and, as stated earlier, also served as inspiration for Luftwerk. Luftwerk’s artistic practice, with its emphasis on light, color, and choreographed projections, is conceptually related to Richter’s exploration of abstract forms and rhythms. Luftwerk’s work extends Richter’s legacy and bridges the gap between film and visual art. By incorporating light projections and techniques (in Luftwerk’s case: motors / fabric panels), they push the boundaries of the medium and develop a unique visual language, expanding the possibilities of film and visual art through their innovative and boundary-breaking approach.
And while we’re on the subject of perception, we’re also in NOW, our theme of the Hamburg Short Film Festival. An expanded concept of media art also includes the use of light and movement as artistic material. As early as the 1950s, artists of the ZERO group such as Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Günther Uecker were concerned with light as a creative medium. Their concern was to trace painting back to its conditions, namely in particular to light as the underlying element. In doing so, however, they left the technique of painting with paint and canvas and created spatial works that cast shadows or evoked reflections and incorporated movement into their concept. The result was works whose impression changes depending on the viewer’s point of view. Heinz Mack does not consider color or other formal components, but their spatial organization and movement as the actual form of artistic work.
Scenography of Space by Luftwerk also works as a space-related artwork with the integration of a variable viewer perspective. As the:visitor:walks through the space, there is no fixed viewer standpoint that dictates an optimal perspective of perception. Movement and orientation in the space is an intentional element of the visitor experience.
— Melike Bilir —
Exact Dutch Yellow | Chicago Cultural Center, Exhibit Hall
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.
A play on words and the act of naming, the exhibition title 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 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.
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.
ZUVA | Harare, Dzimbanhete Arts & Culture
All Afrika Village, Harare, Zimbabwe
ZUVA a site-specific sculptural space that merges traditions of healing and architecture with contemporary color and light work. Inspired by traditional African architecture and realized in collaboration with local cultural experts, this permanent space of color and light 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 space, the Dzimbanhete Arts and Culture center, and its surrounding community. The space is activated by Dzimbanhete as a place for sound, healing, and 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, Nashville
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—served as the conceptual springboard for a vibrant site-specific takeover at the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville, TN. In this unique context, COLORSCAPES explores how the historic, yet fundamental scientific knowledge of color, perception, and nature can inform and connect us to the natural world today.
COLORSCAPES consisted of a series of dynamic outdoor installations and gallery interventions. Set along a prescribed path, the exhibition unfolds across 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 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, Chicago
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.
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
Linear Sky, Kansas City, Mo
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 of 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
Color Code | Cleve Carney Museum of Art
Cleve Carney Art Gallery, Glen Ellyn, IL October 12 – November 17, 2017
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 backlit 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. – Lee Ann Norman