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The Focus Room, 1968 Installation © Archive Adolf-Luther-Stiftung, Krefeld, Courtesy 401contemporary, Berlin

Potsdamer Str. 81 B
October 27th, 2012 - February 16th, 2013
Opening: October 26th, 2012 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

zero, sculpture, mixed-media, installation


The perception of a complex interaction of light and material is one of the principal themes in the artistic work of Adolf Luther (1912-1990). In the 1960s he experimented intensely with reflective glass and created installations and objects, which came close to approaching his concept of visualising light as an autonomous and non-material medium. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the ZERO-artist 401contemporay is delighted to exhibit the spectacular environment “The Focus Room” (1968) together with Adolf Luther’s famous Materiebilder (dark matter pieces), Hohlspiegelobjekte (concave mirror objects) and his Lichtschleusen (light traps).

Luther created „The Focus Room“ in 1968 as an environment for an exhibition at the Rijksuniversitaet in Utrecht making use of a medium unthinkable of nowadays: cigarette smoke. The smoke was supposed to amplify the light cones of the installation and dissociate them from the material object - a kinetic system of concave mirrors, mounted on the floor – into an immaterial form of being, floating in space. As the artist put it: “It creates an energetic sculpture. It is an ethereal figure of alterability and transience.“ The cigarette smoke is now simulated by a fog machine – this spectacular installation, which is presented at a gallery exhibition for the very first time, remains as current and fascinating as it ever was.

The works by Adolf Luther deal with the ideas of the ZERO-manifest, focusing on renewing the very idea of art by giving up all representative means. Just as Christian Megert or Otto Piene, who also made experiments with large-scale kinetic installations, Luther searched for a way to strip the artistic work process back to its essentials and to create an alternative to traditional ideas. In the late 1950s he systematically started to reduce the ideas of illusionistic panel painting, by firstly eliminating perspective, then pictorial object and finally traditional techniques themselves. For his 1960s Materiebilder (dark matter pieces) he used broad palette-knives instead of brushes to bring his pastose paint to the panel ground and worked with mundane objects such as matches or eggshells.

To experience the pure perception of light, dispatched from any form of material, was one of Luther’s main artistic ideas and is essential for his works of the 1960s to his late work. Being aware of the fact that light is always related to matter, Luther used materials such as glass – grinded to lenses, coated and mechanically moved – to attain the highest possible approach to his ideal. The exhibition displays Luther’s rare lens objects as well as his famous light traps. “Light energy carries images as it travels quickly through the room.” Luther created objects, which produce constantly alternating visual appearances. As he said: “I see light as a transoptical substance of unlimited pictorial options.”