Adolf Luther (1912-1990)


Born in 1912 in Krefeld-Uerdingen in North Rhine-Westfalia (Germany), Adolf Luther's career followed a tortuous route before he found his true path. His training in architecture was interrupted by the economic recession at the beginning of the 1930s; he studied the piano and violin, but abandoned music, deeming himself to be without talent. Admitted to the Faculty of Law shortly before the outbreak of the war, he was deployed to France where he produced his first drawings and watercolours.

He had time to work and develop his calling as an artist when he was sent to the Canary Islands on assignment, and then he came back to Paris. There he visited galleries and took life-drawing classes at the Montparnasse studios, whilst preparing his PhD in law which he got in Bonn in 1943. Once the war was over, he could return home, having been held prisoner for four months by the Americans. Back in civilian life, Adolf Luther pursued a career as a judge at the same time as painting; exhibiting a canvas in 1946 with a technique very close to Impressionism and becoming interested in Picasso's Cubism, before practising abstraction which opened a wealth of new horizons for his artistic evolution: 'Truth doesn't lie in visual reality. There is a world behind appearances that one can also represent. I want to find a style that allows me to describe truths that hide behind optical reality.' (1953)

In 1957 he stepped down from his duties as a judge and took up gestural-tachist painting, but it was a failure that caused him to have a deep crisis. A journey to Spain in 1958 encouraged a new departure, in the form of thick planar colour field paintings. He soon created Dark matter paintings that were entirely black with a raised surface that conquered the space: they earned him his first individual exhibition at the Kaiser Museum in Krefeld. In 1961 he conceived Dematerialisations, abstract paintings in relief on hardboard; he started to become interested in glass and the following year gave rise to his first light objects, Lightsluices, types of screens made with fragments of glass that could move around an axis. He soon seized upon lenses, then concave mirrors that he staged by submitting them to the light of a projector in order to play with optical phenomena (Focussing Room, 1970).

From then on, Adolf Luther's work was dedicated to light: by carrying out concrete experiments, he wanted to magnify its reality that is extraordinary yet most often invisible even though it represents a fundamental element of our physical world: 'There are ways of diverting light, of sending it in a different direction and making it appear.'

At the beginning of the 1970s, whilst creating his first laser pieces, he assimilated concave mirrors into architecture, as in Integration, Spherical Concave Mirror Object Olympia, which was installed in the entrance of the Sporthalle at Munich's Olympic Stadium for the Olympic Games.

In 1976 Adolf Luther's most ambitious and poetic idea was born, which aspired to develop his art on a cosmic scale: Moon Project-Festival 2000 involved capturing interstellar light with the help of a satellite, then projecting it thanks to reflectors onto the dark side of the moon during the night that would mark entry into the third millennium: 'If the reflectors could rotate, your movements on the Moon [...] would be visible on Earth. The Moon would become an art object for all the nations of the world. [...] I would like us to be able to accomplish [this project] at the end of this century. It is the space century. We ought to give a sign of confidence, of hope that life is going to continue.'

The self-taught Adolf Luther took part in major exhibitions by Art Cinétique, ZERO and Op Art, to say nothing of those devoted to architecture and space, and is recognised as representing the forefront of innovation in post-war art.

His Foundation, at the site of his workshop in Krefeld, came into being in 1989 to champion Concrete Art from the beginning of the 1950s. Today, his work is found in many galleries.

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Art works from Adolf Luther




Adolf Luther Stehlinse (Lentille debout), 1970 sculpture
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