Focusing Room

20 May — 9 Jun 2017 at the ArtCircle in London, United Kingdom

18 MAY 2017
Focusing Room. Courtesy of ArtCircle
Focusing Room. Courtesy of ArtCircle

The directors of ArtCircle are delighted to announce its first exhibition, Focusing Room, a presentation of seminal works relating to light and space by artists Adolf Luther, Heinz Mack, Nanda Vigo, Alberto Biasi, Christian Megert, Peter Sedgley, Nicolas Schöffer and Grazia Varisco.

Many of the works that feature in the presentation have never been shown in the UK before, and include Adolf Luther’s epic installation, Focusing Room (1968), on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in Goslar, Germany. Comprised of twenty concave mirrors arranged on sets of five on a wooden table and spot-lit from above, this interactive installation renders light visible as its own autonomous, matter-less medium.

The exhibition’s curator, Bettina Ruhrberg, says of the show: ‘The art of the 1960’s and 70’s was revolutionary art for a revolutionary age. A whole generation of artists both in Eastern and Western Europe, and in America, were fascinated by the phenomena of light and the perception. Enthusiastic for technology and geared to science, the artists saw themselves as experimental researchers in the field of optics. Their interest was concentrated on the seeing process in motion. They abandoned the traditional pictorial space and integrated practically the whole sensory apparatus into their artistic concepts. Using industrial materials such as mirrors, fluorescent tubes, aluminium and Perspex, they made beholders and their movements integral components of the artwork. This art set out to surprise, involve, overwhelm and appropriate the beholder.

‘The extent to which the physical and psychological space was conquered – in the sense of being redefined – is revealed by this exhibition of works from the circle of Kinetic Art and Zero. Centering on the sensational ‘Focusing Room’ by Adolf Luther (1968), which, alongside the light room by the group Zero at the documenta 3 (1964) was among the major early experience spaces in art. The works embrace beholders in a special way, allowing them to experience unfathomable spaces and poetic light games.’

In keeping with ArtCircle’s business concept, Focusing Room is a pop-up show, and will be staged on the first floor of 48 Albemarle Street, a four storey-white stucco building in the heart of Mayfair. It is the first of three presentations to be mounted in London this year; others will follow in cities around the world.

Founded by Natasha Chagoubatova, Elena Sereda and veteran German gallerist Volker Diehl, ArtCircle works with museums, commercial galleries, collectors and artists’ estates to stage short-term selling exhibitions featuring works by artists of historical importance. Central to its philosophy is to work closely with internationally renowned curators and art historians, which enables the organisation to realise museum-quality, scholarly shows on a more intimate scale than might otherwise be possible.

Adolf Luther (b. 1912, Germany, d.1990) was a self-taught painter and light sculptor. Adolf Luther sought to ‘represent truths lying beyond optical reality’ with dark matter, glass, mirrors, lenses and lasers. Luther experimented with Color Field painting before developing an interest in light as an autonomous medium. He began creating installations using reflective objects and lenses to capture light and movement. InLaser Space(1970), smoke renders laser beams visible, forming a continuous and variable spatial experience in which light acts as a moving element. Likewise, the exploration of materiality and its relation to light extends to works such as Light and Matter (1960), a black relief-like chalk, oil, and pigment work on hardboard. Propelled by a penchant for fusing painting, relief and sculpture, Luther’s artistic practice included ‘dematerialisations’, assemblages and installations of destroyed materials that linked him with Zero.

Alberto Biasi (b.1937, Italy) is today considered a pioneer in the broader field of Kinetic Art. A founder of the ground-breaking Gruppo N in the 1960s, Biasi was one of the first artists to experiment with the illusory possibilities of non-traditional art materials in works that border two- and three-dimensionality. Though the Gruppo N disbanded in 1967, Biasi has continued to explore the concepts that first intrigued the group during this period. Explosions of vibrant colour and astounding geometric precision, Biasi’s work explores optical effects through the use of pedestrian materials like PVC strips and painted designs.

Nanda Vigo (b.1936, Italy) started her own atelier in Milan in 1959, and soon after began to exhibit her designs in many galleries and museums around Italy and Europe. She later earned a degree in Architecture and began formulating her own theory of space and time, autonomous to artistic practice. Her more recent designs have stemmed from this exploration, focusing on sensory impulses through materials such as glass, mirrors and neon lights. She has famously collaborated with Italian designer Gio Ponti, as well as the Arte Povera pioneers Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni. Her work was featured in multiple iterations of the Triennale di Milano, as well as at the Venice Biennale in 1982.

Christian Megert (b. 1936, Switzerland) is a member of the Zero group, founded in the 1960s. He creates abstract geometric constructions and environments using mirrors as his primary material. Additionally, he incorporates wood, lights, and motors into his mirror projects to create a disorienting sensation for viewers as they walk through his constructed environments. Attempting to create an infinite space that is ‘without beginning or end’, simultaneously static and in flux, Megert sees the viewer as a participant who must activate each piece.

Heinz Mack (b. 1931, Germany) studied painting at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1950 to 1953. Following his studies, Mack applied himself to abstract painting, developing his first ‘Dynamic Structures’ in painting, drawing, plaster and metal relief. In 1957 he founded the Zero group with Otto Piene and organised an influential series of evening exhibitions at his studio in Düsseldorf. Zero’s last group exhibition took place in Bonn in 1966. In June 2014, Mack unveiled The Sky Over Nine Columns, an installation of 850,000 mosaic gold leaf tiles covering nine seven-metre-high columns, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice; it subsequently travelled to Istanbul (2015-16), Valencia (2016), and St. Moritz, where it was installed until March 2017. Mack’s works can be found in numerous public and private collections worldwide.