Microscope is very pleased to present an exhibition focused on German artist Kurt Schwerdtfeger’s “Reflektorische Farblichtspiele” (Reflecting Color-Light-Play).
Microscope is very pleased to present an exhibition focused on German artist Kurt Schwerdtfeger’s “Reflektorische Farblichtspiele” (Reflecting Color-Light-Play), which was first presented in 1922 at the home of Vasily Kandinsky as part of a Lantern Festival, when the then 25-year-old artist was a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar.
The piece — which in recent years has received wider recognition as a groundbreaking work of the Bauhaus movement and of 20th century film and sculpture — utilizes a large, hand-built cube projection apparatus in which performers, who are unseen by the audience, activate panels of cut-out shapes and a switchboard of colored lights to form a complex, abstract light play, composed of several movements, appearing on its screen surface.
“While conceptualizing a shadow play titled “Days of Genesis” for a Lantern Festival it seemed necessary to use not only shadow figures but color shapes on black as well. At that very moment I perceived the idea of color-light plays in abstract form with free-moving, superimposed shapes of colored light moving in time.” – Kurt Schwerdtfeger, 1962
The exhibition marks the first time the work has been on exhibition in the US and coincides with the return of the work to the US after a year of exhibitions at Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt (HKW) in Berlin, Germany and at Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland as part of the international exhibition “bauhaus imaginista,” curated by Marion Von Osten and Grant Watson in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus.
The current apparatus was reconstructed by the gallery in collaboration with artist Daniel Wapner in 2016 for the first re-staging of the work in 50 years in “Dreamlands: Expanded,” a series of live expanded cinema performances presented at the gallery as part of the Whitney Museum’s exhibition “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema & Art, 1905-2016,” during which it was performed once and only briefly on view for the audience in attendance that night.
The apparatus, its light-activating keyboard and five stenciled panels — which are manipulated live to create the visuals for the five Sätze, “sets” or movements of the piece — and the soundtracks used in the live performances are based on film documentation and a recording of the last presentation of the work that took place under the oversight of the artist, who unexpectedly died just weeks before that performance in 1966. The reconstruction and re-staging are also in accordance with original notes and documentation of the work dating back to the 1920s provided by the Kurt Schwerdtfeger Estate.
Video documents of the 1966 performance, as well as of the 2016 and 2019 re-stagings will also be on view for the exhibition, along with additional and previously unseen historical documents.
Although no recordings exist of the original performance of the work in 1922, photographic documents from that performance appear in the first Bauhaus catalog of 1919 to 1922; in MoMA’s 1938/39 exhibit “Bauhaus 1919-1928”; as well as in the more recent “Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity”, 2009/10.
Please note: Among the live performances of “Reflektorische Farblichtspiele” and other events that will take place over the course of the exhibition are a brief demonstration during the opening on January 31st, and a live performance on Monday February 17th by New York artists Lary 7, on the keyboard-like light system; Bradley Eros and Joel Schlemowitz manipulating the stenciled shapes; and Rachael Guma on sound and offering additional visual support. More details about these and other performances as well as a panel TBA soon.
“Reflektorische Farblichtspiele” (Reflecting Color-Light-Play) opens Friday January 31st and continues through March 8th. Opening Reception: Friday January 31, 6-9pm, with mini-performance at 6:30pm.
Live Performance: Monday February 17, 7:30pm. Additional performances & panel discussion TBA soon.