Seeing color in space


Lynn Umlauf was born in 1942 in Austin, Texas, into a family of artists. She moved to New York in 1961 to attend the Art Students League. Her first New York solo show was at the Hal Bromm Gallery in 1978, and her first museum exhibition was with the 1975 Whitney Biennial. Umlauf's recent solo exhibition's include "Works (1974 – 1981)", Zürcher Gallery, New York and  "New Sculpture and Paintings",  Spazio E_EMME, Cagliari, Italy.


Central to Umlauf's most recent, and continuing, sculptural work are the materials and how they function in space. The varying degrees of saturation and transparency create luminous, translucent veils, which expose a transformation. Traces of the human form and lines of a landscape are present with the flowing, sensual use of color. Darkness lingers and prevails through these layers of light and color. There is a negative and positive push and pull, which produces unity and order within the conflicting elements building tension and intensity. The eye is continuously searching for a threshold, a place to begin in these works.


There is no point of perspective in a traditional sense in Umlauf’s sculptures because space, the angles, layers, and light disrupt their natural behaviors and allow the perspective to be released from the constraints of these properties.  


"In St. Sebastian, there is no perspective in any conventional sense but a suggestion of form and space going beyond the wall, by the shadow and sculpted line around the rectangle of blue Plexi.  Also in the sculpture Plexis, the oval pink seems to slip behind and into the wall around the shaped blue Plexiglas," explains Umlauf. Her sculptures are built from memories, like watching fluorescent fish swimming with her twin sister, they are trails and traces formed from ritual, and myth, and the glow resonates and responds.


Umlauf takes the time to cut and sand the edges of the fluorescent Plexi to allow the light to emanate in a metaphysical fashion. "I cut the edges of some of the Plexi by hand so that I can exaggerate the length of the line of the colored and sometimes phosphorescent forms comparable to a fluorescent light tube." The scouring of the surfaces of the plastic builds continuous depth and the wires, some entangled, some leading, like a drawn line into these motionless, minimal but action-oriented shapes.


Like Tuttle in the minimalist sensibility and process driven aspects of Umlauf’s sculptures from the ’70s, they are both "eccentric in shape and obliquely referential... Tuttle’s term for these works as, drawings of three-dimensional structures in space”. This term is apropos when describing Umlauf’s work as they too are structures in space because space becomes part of the work. There is also a similar sense of unraveling in their works. “To make something which is unraveling, its own justification is something like a dream. There is no paradox, for that is only a separation from reality. We have no mind, only its dream of being, a dream of substance when there is one”. 2



















Laura Horne, November 2018, New York



1. The Art of Richard Tuttle, Madeline Grynsztejn, pg.36

2. Richard Tuttle « Work is Justification for the Excuse”, in Documenta 5 (Kassel, Germany, 1972), section 17, page 77.



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Lynn Umlauf, November, 1978, pastel, acrylic, paper, canvas, 64 x 53 inches Image courtesy of Zürcher Gallery, New York

Richard TuttlePurple Octagonal, 1967. Dyed canvas, 54 13/16 × 55 ½ in. (139.2 × 141 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of William J. Hokin, 1982.69. Photo © MCA Chicago

Lynn Umlauf, detail of "Untitled", 2018

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Lynn Umlauf, "Untitled", 2018

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"St. Sebastian", 2016 - 2018, Plexiglas, stainless steel wire mesh, acrylic on paper and canvas, painted rope, aluminum.50 x 20.5 x 12.5 inches

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Lynn Umlauf, detail of "Untitled", 2018

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Lynn Umlauf, #254 February 5, 1988, Galvanized wire grid, fiberglass, acrylic, 14 x 40 x 32 in Image courtesy of Zürcher Gallery, New York

RT_3-The Place In The Window, II, #3, 20

Richard Tuttle, The Place In The Window, II, #3, 2013

Image courtesy of Marian Goodman, Paris