Magazine article Sculpture

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Magazine article Sculpture

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Article excerpt

Washington, DC

Thomas Wilfred

Through January 7, 2018

In 1919, a decade before television, Wilfred (1889-1968), a musician, inventor, and co-founder of the Theosophical group the Prome theans, began experimenting with light as an artistic medium, building objects that could produce kaleidoscopic sequences of abstract colored forms. After early concert performances of his Clavilux (an organ generating "light played by key"), he committed to an increasingly democratic vision of this "eighth art," creating home models in which sturdy tables and cabinets divulged spiritual mysteries that could be "programmed" by users. (In an enticing bit of home-entertainment-that-mighthave- been, he took his table model to Sears in 1933; the Depression killed the deal.) Though Wilfred's experiments won the respect of Alfred Barr, Jackson Pollock, László Moholy-Nagy, and Katherine Dreier, his analogue works (with run-times of several minutes to over a day) proved difficult to maintain; after a heyday in the psychedelic era, they were relegated to storage and forgotten by the '80s. …

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