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Seeing Light

Laura Horne, November 2018, New York

Central to Umlauf's most recent, and continuing, sculptural work are the materials and their physicality. The layers of materials are varying degrees of saturation and transparency creating luminous, translucent veils, which expose a transformation. There are suggestions of the human form and lines of landscapes are present within Umlauf's flowing, sensual use of color. Darkness lingers and sometimes prevails through these layers of light and color. There is a negative and positive push and pull, which unfolds as a unity and order within the conflicting elements, building tension and intensity as the eye continuously searches for a threshold, a place to begin in these works.


There is no point of perspective in a traditional sense in Umlauf’s sculptures. The angles, layers, and light in the works 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.


Umlauf's sculptures are built from her memories. Memories like watching fluorescent fish swimming with her twin sister. The works are trails and traces formed from ritual, and myth, and the glow resonates and responds from their energy.


Umlauf intricately cuts and sands 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. The wires, some entangled, some leading are like drawn lines onto these motionless, minimal yet action-oriented shapes.


Like Tuttle with his minimalist sensibility and process driven aspects, Umlauf’s sculptures from the ’70s are just as "eccentric in shape and obliquely referential... Tuttle’s term for these works as, drawings of three-dimensional structures in space”.* I see Umlauf’s work similarly, as three-dimensional drawings of structures in space. However, the space integrates itself with the shapes disrupting the lines and the light leaves me with a sense of unraveling.


“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”. **


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 at the Whitney Biennial, 1975. Umlauf's recent solo exhibitions include "Works (1974 – 1981)", Zürcher Gallery, New York and  "New Sculpture and Paintings",  Spazio E_EMME, Cagliari, Italy.

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

** 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

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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

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

Image courtesy of Marian Goodman, Paris

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

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

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