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Seeing Light

Laura Horne, November 2018, New York

Umlauf's sculptural practice is characterized by a deep engagement with the physical properties of materials. Her work focuses on the luminosity and transparency of fluorescent Plexi, which she uses to create intricate layers of varying saturation and transparency. These layers produce luminous, translucent veils that expose a transformation. There are suggestions of the human form and landscape lines present within Umlauf's use of flowing, sensual color. Darkness sometimes prevails through these layers, creating a negative and positive push and pull that builds tension and intensity as the viewer continuously searches for a threshold to begin.

Umlauf's sculptures are deeply personal, drawing on her memories, rituals, and myths. One such memory is of watching fluorescent fish swimming with her twin sister. She uses these experiences as the foundation for her work, creating trails and traces that are formed from personal history and resonate with energy. Her sculptures glow and respond to their surroundings, evoking an ethereal quality that engages the viewer on multiple levels.

One of the most distinctive features of Umlauf's practice is her use of light. She intricately cuts and sands the edges of fluorescent Plexi to allow light to emanate in a metaphysical fashion. By doing so, she creates a continuous depth that draws the viewer's eye into the work. The wires that are sometimes entangled and sometimes leading serve as drawn lines onto the shapes, adding a sense of movement and dynamism to the sculptures.

Umlauf's work can be compared to that of Richard Tuttle, a minimalist sculptor known for his eccentric shapes and obliquely referential structures in space. Tuttle has described his own sculptures as "drawings of three-dimensional structures in space,"* and Umlauf shares some of this sensibility. However, where Tuttle's work creates structures in space, Umlauf's integrates space with shapes, disrupting lines and creating a sense of unraveling. 

Umlauf's artistic practice navigates the possibilities and limitations of materials and form, resulting in sculptures that are visually captivating, emotionally resonant, and deeply rooted in contemporary art history. Her use of fluorescent Plexi and intricate wirework draws on the legacy of minimalism, while her emphasis on light and materiality situates her work within the broader context of postmodernism. Through her exploration of these themes, Umlauf creates something entirely unique and deeply personal, inviting us to consider the ways in which contemporary art can engage with the physical world and our own experiences.


“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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