Thomas Wilfred


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Artist who worked with light. His keyboard instrument, the Clavilux, or color organ, used painted glass, mirrors, colored lights, and polarizers to create diaphanous, ever-changing veils of color on a screen. He numbers among early visual artists to incorporate movement and duration into his artistic expression. Through his work, Wilfred aspired to connect human consciousness with universal, transcendental rhythms. His “lumia” art form (as he called it) attracted attention in the popular press and among avant-garde artists and photographers, including Roberto Matta, László Moholy-Nagy, and Francis Bruguière. Born Richard Edgar Løvstrøm in Naestved, Denmark, he studied music and art in Copenhagen, London, and Paris. In 1905 he began to experiment with light as an abstract artistic medium, probably the first to do so. In 1916 he emigrated to the United States and by 1919 had built a Clavilux. He gave the first public performance of his visual music in New York in 1922. From 1930 until 1943 he headed the Art Institute of Light, devoted to scientific investigation of the aesthetic possibilities of light. He gave regular weekly concerts in its New York quarters, where his Clavilux was installed. He also built about two dozen additional versions of his instrument (later examples included electronic programming), as well as other related devices. He died in a Nyack, New York hospital near his home in West Nyack.

Subjects: Art.

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