by Jake Weigel
Emil Lukas has the alchemical gift of transforming common materials into objects that display a keen sense of the sublime. His current exhibition, Twin Orbit, offers further insight into his understanding of the principles of nature at various levels. True to the traditions of Minimalism, the Light and Space movement and philosophy, Lukas eloquently connects disparate areas of inquiry as they relate to space, time, light and the human experience. His works serve as metaphors for an all-encompassing view of the structured world, visible and invisible. For this exhibition, Lukas culled pieces from three bodies of work: Bubbles, Threads and Lens, all made during the past two years.
To create the Bubble sseries, Lukas applied cast plaster to sheets of bubble wrap, painting the negative spaces so that the air bubbles generate Op-ish visual effects. The inherent grid structure enables him to discover a variety of compositions by arranging colors and values. He begins this work by applying burlap to the backside of plaster poured onto bubble wrap. While the plaster is still soft, Lukas allows gravity to pull the surface into a concave or convex form, the structured burlap momentarily holding everything together. In some instances, the surface undulates between these two states, adding complexity to the colored matrix in front and enticing viewers to look closely at the nuance of dots, colors and surface from the side.
Lukas’ presents his current iteration of Threads in a round format, at sizes large and small, using hand-applied plaster to an aluminum armature to form parabolic discs that capture and shape light, an obvious nod to Robert Irwin’s acrylic discs of the late 1960s. To a greater degree than in the previous rectangular thread pieces, these works rely on vignette effects to draw our attention to points of singularity. They do so with hundreds of layers and thousands of feet of multicolored thread, pulled from nails at equidistant edges. The taut strings allude to both contemporary string theory and to the mapping of electron clouds as a means of understanding atomic energy. With titles such as convergent heat # 1600 and condensed heat # 1599, Lukas confirms his intentions to visualize these subatomic realities.
The Lens pieces developed naturally as a by-product the Thread sseries, and offer similar ideas of action, attraction and convergence. They consist of tapered plastic tubes, empty spools once wrapped with string. The effect proffered is that of partial atoms or decaying stars imploding, captured in a frozen moment. Simultaneously architectural and ephemeral, they present a bifurcated perspective, of looking at and through partial spheres. This sensation is
especially pronounced in the large aluminum Lens sculpture, operative spot # 1614, which is placed in front of a wall of windows, its reflective surface dissolving and reappearing as you walk past. No piece in the exhibit demonstrates more strongly the role of phenomenology in Lukas’ practice.
Throughout the show, energy materializes and dissipates. Part of this has to do the sheer size of this light-drenched gallery. It enables Lukas’ work to unfold almost musically, its positive and negative spaces analogous to “notes” and “rests.” And while a minimalist aesthetic prevails, Lukas leaves traces of his own hand. Nails used as anchors for string are casually bent. Plaster spattered on the elegant aluminum armatures used to construct the discs for Threads feels poetic. Brush strokes, found in almost all of the works, cover the base material and reveal a layer of history. The duality of the work, at once chaotic and nuanced, remains – overall — meditative, intuitive, patient and meticulous: adjectives that bespeak the title, Twin Orbit.
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Emil Lukas: “Twin Orbit” @ Hosfelt Gallery through June 16, 2018.
About the author:
Jake Weigel is assistant professor of sculpture at California State University, Stanislaus and a multidisciplinary artist with a focus in object making and installation methods. By combining traditional mediums and processes with new technology, Weigel continually expands his practice and teaching opportunities through contemporary dialogues. He has served as chair of the Public Art Committee for the city of Odessa, Texas, as Chair of Exhibitions for the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art & Practices and continues to explore avenues for engagement between art and the general public. Weigel has exhibited widely across the United States in group, juried and solo exhibitions.