Adolf Luther: Integration of Light and Space

20 Mar 2015 – 30 May 2015

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Berlin, Germany


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  • U1 Kurfürstenstrasse
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Solo-show by ZERO-artist Adolf Luther (1912-1990)


Adolf Luther

20 March – 30 May 2015
Opening: 19 March, 4 - 8 pm
Venue: 401contemporary, Potsdamer Straße 81 B, 10785 Berlin


Since the ZEROplus exhibition was featured at 401contemporary in Berlin in 2009, the gallery has dealt in greater depth with works from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s and presented them in context with young 21st century artists. This intergenerational dialogue is our guiding principle.

The gallery presented a special exhibition in 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Luther (1912-1990), featuring early works from the 1960s. The highlight of the exhibition was the famous “Focus Room” from 1968, an exclusive loan from the Adolf Luther Foundation in Krefeld.

This year’s exhibition is concerned, first and foremost, with the issues most important to Adolf Luther’s - the integration of light and space. This is manifested impressively in large room instal­lations of concave mirror objects (for example, to mark the occasion of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich).

To coincide with the show ZERO: The international art movement of the 1950’s and ‘60s (Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin, 20.3. - 8.6. 2015), the gallery exhibition Integration of Light and Space offers deep insight into the work of this ZERO artist.

Starting in the 1950s, Adolf Luther made a radical departure from the painted image with the goal of shifting light perception itself to the centre of the observer’s visual experience. Luther’s light art was a reaction to the crisis in the world of painting, as well as to the wavering image of reality brought about by technology and scientific innovation.

Luther began methodically to develop his concept of a new image of reality from painting. Against the backdrop of the consideration that reality’s invisible energetic realm eludes depiction, he be­gan little by little to reduce the illusionistic categories of painting. He eliminated perspective, then the object itself; he painted abstractly and finally traded in the paintbrush for a palette knife, no longer applying the pastose mass of paint to canvas, but to the hardboard instead.

His objective was not to create a new visual language with new materials and work methods. Luther essentially wanted to break away from the image in order to behold light free of all material support. Luther’s idea of destroying glass emerged from the realisation that matter cannot be eliminated entirely, but rather that any form of destruction simply transforms it into another physi­cal state, thus continually giving rise to new structures. Glass is transparent and has the property of “visual immateriality”, which is related to light in the eyes of the artist. Luther himself spoke of an artistic auto-da-fé and of a “process of dematerialisation”, when he smashed bottles at the end of 1960 and discovered a medium for light in the cracked and shattered pieces of glass.

“By defining a space, a light-space by virtue of an energetic medium, Luther establishes a dynamic concept of space in art. In contrast to the rigid space found in perspective painting and in environmental art, Luther’s space is a flowing space continuum of various interconnected forces: a force field.” (Klaus Honnef, 1971).


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