This article needs additional citations for verification . (August 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Thomas Wilfred (June 18, 1889 in Naestved, Denmark - August 15, 1968 in Nyack, New York), born Richard Edgar Løvstrøm, was a musician and inventor. He is best known for his light art, which he named lumia , and his designs for color organs called Clavilux. Wilfred was not fond of the term "color organ", and coined the word "Clavilux" from Latin meaning "light played by key". His innovative, kinetic works prefigured the advent of light art in America, and influenced subsequent generations of visual artists.
Wilfred's father ran a photography studio, and young Wilfred was exposed to the arts at a young age. He studied painting and poetry in Paris, and found early success as "Wilfred the Lute Player" traveling Europe and America performing minstrel songs on the archaic lute.
Around 1905, Wilfred began to experiment with bits of colored glass and light sources. After moving to New York he, along with Claude Fayette Bragdon and 'Kirk' Kirkpatrick Brice cofounded a group of Theosophists called the Prometheans. The Prometheans were dedicated to exploring spiritual matters through modern artistic expression. Brice served also as patron to the group.
While many people had experimented with light as an artistic medium (most notably the color organs) Wilfred was the first to speak of light as a formal art. He coined the term "lumia" to describe "an eighth art" where light would stand on its own as an expressive art-form. Wilfred was passionate that lumia should be a silent art.
Wilfred's mechanisms were often complex designs that have been described as from the "Rube Goldberg school". He was a trained artist, but had little mechanical schooling. That said, his devices were very sturdy, and many still function with most of the original parts.
In 1919, Wilfred constructed the Clavilux Model A in his Long Island studio (located on the Brice estate). The first public recital came in 1922 and featured performances on the Clavilux Model B for audiences at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. The press was highly receptive. In the audience that first night was Leopold Stokowski.
The Clavilux was a complex instrument which allowed a person to create and perform lumia compositions. Later models B-H were touring and lecture models, the last one being built prior to W.W.II.
Wilfred founded the Art Institute of Light, which had a recital hall in Chelsea, and then later at the Grand Central Palace.
World War II found the Grand Central Palace theatre turned into an Army induction center, and Wilfred did his part for the Allies by serving as a translator.
After the war, Wilfred no longer performed Clavilux recitals, concentrating his work on recorded lumia and theatrical projection.
Wilfred was also an early pioneer in working with projected scenery for the theatre. His initial success in this was a 1930 Broadway production of Ibsen's The Vikings. Wilfred did seminal work in the 1950s with the University of Washington's John Ashby Conway in this field.
Starting in the late 1920s, Wilfred began to create smaller, less complex lumia devices, some were meant for home exhibition, while others were designed for installation in museums and art galleries:
Starting in 1931, he began to shift his emphasis with lumia from concert recitals to museum and gallery exhibitions.
There are only about thirty-five extant Clavilux Jr. and lumia compositions. Wilfred has explicitly stated his objections to recording lumia works on film (in his writings collected in Thomas Wilfred's Clavilux), making the survival of his works dependent on the existence of his machines. Most of the extant works are in the Epstein Collection, and the Epstein family has loaned lumia compositions to museums world-wide. In 2003, two of the original Clavilux (Models E & G) were rescued from an East Village eviction dumpster, and are now stored in Seattle, Washington awaiting restoration by the Epsteins.
In 1952, he was included in the influential Museum of Modern Art exhibition 15 Americans, alongside Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko. At this point in his career, Wilfred shifted from a musical to a painting-based analogy for lumia in an attempt to explain it to the broader public.One of his installations, "Lumia Suite, Opus 158," enchanted MoMA visitors from 1964 until 1980, when it was dismantled and placed in storage. The Museum of Modern Art owns three Wilfred lumia compositions, and many artists of the Psychedelic era were inspired to work with light after seeing the MoMA compositions.
Because of his influence on this generation of artists, Wilfred's final work "Lucatta, Opus 162" was included in the "Summer of Love" exhibition, which was hosted by the Whitney Museum in the spring of 2007.
In 2017, Yale University Art Gallery organized the first exhibition dedicated solely to Wilfred and his light compositions in more than forty years. It was on view at Yale University Art Gallery from February 17, 2017 – July 23, 2017, before traveling to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. from October 6, 2017 – January 7, 2018.
In 2011, brief excerpts of "Opus 161", Wilfred's penultimate lumia work, was featured at several important points in the Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life.
Op art, short for optical art, is a style of visual art that uses optical illusions.
Sean Scully is an Irish-born American-based artist working as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and photographer. His work is held in museum collections worldwide and he has twice been named a Turner Prize nominee. Moving from London to New York in 1975, Scully helped lead the transition from Minimalism to Emotional abstraction in painting, abandoning the reduced vocabulary of Minimalism in favor of a return to metaphor and spirituality in art.
Josef Albers was a German-born artist and educator. He taught at the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College, headed Yale University's department of design, and is considered one of the most influential teachers of the visual arts in the twentieth century.
William Eggleston is an American photographer. He is widely credited with increasing recognition for color photography as a legitimate artistic medium. Eggleston's books include William Eggleston's Guide (1976) and The Democratic Forest (1989).
Simon Patterson is an English artist and was born in Leatherhead, Surrey. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1996 for his exhibitions at the Lisson Gallery, the Gandy Gallery, and three shows in Japan. He is the younger brother of the painter Richard Patterson.
Solomon "Sol" LeWitt was an American artist linked to various movements, including conceptual art and minimalism.
Paul Jenkins was an American abstract expressionist painter.
The term color organ refers to a tradition of mechanical devices built to represent sound and accompany music in a visual medium. The earliest created color organs were manual instruments based on the harpsichord design. By the 1900s they were electromechanical. In the early 20th century, a silent color organ tradition (Lumia) developed. In the 1960s and '70s, the term "color organ" became popularly associated with electronic devices that responded to their music inputs with light shows. The term "light organ" is increasingly being used for these devices; allowing "color organ" to reassume its original meaning.
Brice Marden is an American artist generally described as Minimalist, although his work may be hard to categorize. He lives and works in New York City; Tivoli, New York; Hydra, Greece; and Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania.
Visual music, sometimes called colour music, refers to the creation of a visual analogue to musical form by adapting musical structures for visual composition, which can also include silent films or silent Lumia work. It also refers to methods or devices which can translate sounds or music into a related visual presentation. An expanded definition may include the translation of music to painting; this was the original definition of the term, as coined by Roger Fry in 1912 to describe the work of Wassily Kandinsky. There are a variety of definitions of visual music, particularly as the field continues to expand. In some recent writing, usually in the fine art world, visual music is often confused with or defined as synaesthesia, though historically this has never been a definition of visual music. Visual music has also been defined as a form of intermedia.
Alma Woodsey Thomas was an African-American artist and teacher who lived and worked in Washington, D.C., and is now recognized as a major American painter of the 20th century. Thomas is best known for the "exuberant", colorful, abstract paintings that she created after her retirement from a 35-year career teaching art at Washington's Shaw Junior High School.
Mickalene Thomas is a contemporary African-American visual artist best known as a painter of complex works using rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel. Thomas's collage work is inspired from popular art histories and movements, including Impressionism, Cubism, Dada and the Harlem Renaissance. Her work draws from Western art history, pop art and visual culture to examine ideas around femininity, beauty, race, sexuality, and gender.
Clavilux is the term coined by the artist Thomas Wilfred to refer to his mechanical invention that allowed the creation and performance of lumia, which was Wilfred's term for light art.
Anne Ryan (1889–1954) belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists. Her first contact with the New York Avant-garde came in 1941 when she joined the Atelier 17, a famous printmaking workshop that the British artist Stanley William Hayter had established in Paris in the 1930s and then brought to New York when France fell to the Nazis. The great turning point in Anne Ryan's development occurred after the war, in 1948. She was 57 years old when she saw the collages of Kurt Schwitters at the Rose Fried Gallery, in New York City, in 1948. She right away dedicated herself to this newly discovered medium. Since Anne Ryan was a poet, according to Deborah Solomon, in Kurt Schwitters’s collages “she recognized the visual equivalent of her sonnets – discrete images packed together in an extremely compressed space.” When six years later Anne Ryan died, her work in this medium numbered over 400 pieces.
Janet Fish is a contemporary American realist artist. Through oil painting, lithography, and screenprinting, she explores the interaction of light with everyday objects in the still life genre. Many of her paintings include elements of transparency, reflected light, and multiple overlapping patterns depicted in bold, high color values. She has been credited with revitalizing the still life genre.
Terry Roger Adkins was an American artist. He was Professor of Fine Arts in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lumia is a form of art that uses light; originally associated with music but was later associated with painting. The term was coined by a twentieth-century artist, Thomas Wilfred. In the early twentieth century, artists began to promote colors and light together in their works. Wilfred worked towards establishing lumia as a new form of art, but the medium has yet to achieve popular recognition.
Joshua White is an American artist, video maker and broadcast television director. Best known for The Joshua Light Show, a 1960s and 1970s liquid light show, his work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and has been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the New Museum, the Hayden Planetarium, the Barbican Center in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Broad Museum in Los Angeles, and the The New-York Historical Society as well as many other venues.
Dorothy Tanner was an American light sculptor, installation artist, musician, videographer, and spoken word artist based in Denver, Colorado. Her husband, Mel Tanner, was an American light sculptor, painter, installation artist, and videographer. The couple worked very closely for over 40 years. Their main project was the creation of Lumonics that consists of their light sculptures, live projection, video, electronics, and music as a total art installation. Author and art historian, Michael Betancourt, described this visual music performance work as a Gesamtkunstwerk in his book, The Lumonics Theater: The Art of Mel & Dorothy Tanner, published in 2004.
Robert Yasuda is an American abstract painter, most known for contemplative, atmospheric works that straddle painting, sculpture and architecture. He first attracted wide attention in the 1970s for large wall works merging painting and installation art, mounted at MoMA PS1, the Corcoran Museum of Art, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Since the 1990s, he has focused on paintings that disrupt conventional formats using hand-carved wood panels and custom framing elements, upon which he builds multi-layered iridescent surfaces that respond dynamically to shifting conditions of light, time and vantage. Reviewing this later work, ARTnews critic Barbara MacAdam described Yasuda as a "romantic minimalist" whose paintings present an intangible, fleeting reality that is nonetheless referential, showing his roots in their construction, shifting tones and titles.
with images and information from the Eugene and Carol Epstein Collection