Section B Light Images

In the early twentieth century, Light art pioneers were interested in changes in perception through new light technologies and mass media. Coming from the larger circles of Bauhaus and Constructivism, these artists followed their vision of the synthesis of painting and movement, which had already been aspirations in Futurism and Cubism. The new medium of film realized this utopia in the 1920s as abstract painting's continuation in movies or the light image. Viking Eggeling's films generated rhythms and movement by means of the analogy and contrast of abstract forms. Eggeling orchestrated surfaces, double strokes and dots, which swelled and then disappeared. Also Hans Richter's films appear as animations of abstract images. The rhythmic opposition of rectangles and squares is related directly to the projection surface. The works by Walter Ruttmann and his student, Oskar Fischinger, show a dramatic interplay of surfaces and lines. In Ruttmann's works, sharp forms such as peaks and corners "fight" against semicircles, round forms and large drops. Focus is on the "dynamics of optical happening" [Ruttmann]. Both Ruttmann and Fischinger worked with music, which they illustrated with abstract forms, as was also the case in the films by the Whitney brothers. Beginning in 1922, at the Bauhaus, Kurt Schwertfeger used specially prepared color patterns and light sources set in motion to music to develop the "Reflektorischen Farblichtspiele" [Reflective Colored Light Games]. His contemporary Thomas Wilfred [who expressed an early interest in the connections of light, colors and space] created light cabinets with multidimensional, spherical projections. László Moholy-Nagy connected light projections with kinetic sculptures. His "Licht-Raum-Modulator" [Light-space-modulator] (1922-1930) is composed of mechanically moving metal discs, bars and rods. Illuminated by spotlights and lightbulbs, ephemeral shadows and light reflexes arise: "painting with light" [Moholy-Nagy]. Additional important historical works of Light art are the "Lichtkinetische Skulptur für das Edison-Umspannwerk in Prag" [Light Kinetic Sculpture for the Edison Transformer Station in Prague] by Zdenek Pesánek from 1929-1930 as well as his "Modell einer lichtkinetischen Skulptur" [Model of a Light Kinetic Sculpture] (1936), the very first art work with visible neon lights. In 1946, Gyula Kosice, working in Argentina, used neon lights as material for abstract pictures. From there, Lucio Fontana brought the idea to Italy and expanded Light art with new spatial experiences. In 1948-1949, for the first time, he created complete spaces with light ["ambiente spaziale a luce nera"].