“Phosphor,” Erica Luedtke explains, “is a material that is luminescent without being heated. It’s a color with light inside of it which creates an environment.”
Stepping inside Phosphor-Obscura, the new exhibition by Luedtke and Kristen Phipps opening at the Welmont Gallery on Friday, May 20, is like stepping inside an artist’s memory of color.
If it were possible, I’d tell you that this show should be viewed alone in the dark, with just the artworks and their refracted light floating in front of you like some stained glass fever dream, too vibrant to be natural yet too organic to have been manufactured.
I’d tell you to leave and not open your eyes again for an hour so you can watch the glow of those colors slip off their own edges into the static river of memory where they fracture and blend to match the marbled forms in Phipps’ paintings.
You won’t be able to see the works like that on Friday night during the opening reception (5 – 9pm), but they’ll still leave an indelible impression. As with any show in which the work’s chief concern is with form, the feeling you leave with is the whole point.
Rarely are exhibitions so well-suited to a specific gallery space. Luedtke has made great use of the Welmont’s industrial move-able walls to carve out a niche for what is without a doubt the show’s centerpiece, an installation titled “Untitled (Blue Light)”. The piece immediately invokes James Turrell and Robert Irwin (influences which Luedtke is refreshingly forthright about), its cool blue light diffused with a piece of scrim to glow with a brightness that is at once jarring and soothing.
Either by design or by luck, the hanging walls do great favors for Phipps and Luedtke – the blue light of the installation spills out onto the floor of the gallery, setting off the works hanging above and around. This light activates the gallery floor and (combined with the yellow and magenta reflections from Luedtke’s other works) turns it into a glassy sea of reflected light.
The shapes we find there are mimicked in Phipps’ marbled, rhythmic panels. Inspired by imagery pulled from experiments with pin hole cameras, Polaroids, and camera obscuras, Phipps’ paintings become maelstroms of color.
“It’s all different places forming one thought,” she tells me. Each painting is a pastiche of countless memories collected into one, a portrait of the period at the end of a neuron’s sentence.
Paired with Luedtke’s Richter-style squeegee forms on Tyvek (which are all new by the way – the most recent of which was completed this Wednesday evening), they seem to tell a cohesive story about the way light and, by extension, color are experienced; how they become the glue that seals memories together.
Phosphor-Obscura is perhaps one of the best painting shows this season.