Ingeborg Lüscher White Rainbow / London

January 20, 2017

Rather than attempting the impossible task of summarizing a career spanning five decades through a series of “greatest hits,” Ingeborg Lüscher’s first, long-overdue solo exhibition in London, “It’s 1 o’clock and the bell tolls 8 times,” draws together a body of work begun in the late 1980s.

These twelve untitled paintings and sculptures have ostensibly little in common with Lüscher’s wider practice — neither the landmark series of participatory works called “The Magicians,” nor the reflections on the people, places and things of her immediate surroundings that have informed the majority of her photographs and videos.

Characterized by rigorously geometrical compositions, the black-and-yellow dichromatism of the wall-hung works calls to mind Abstract Expressionism injected with LSD. A closer look reveals a textural density, a spark and an energy that sets them apart from the aseptic tones employed by Newman, Rothko, et al. Comprising sulfur dust and ash mixed with acrylic laid down onto cardboard, the two colors leap from their support in a preternaturally vivid contrast of light and dark. The group of small sculptures likewise consists of a selection of unidentifiable objects covered with sulfur, positioned on plinths in a formation analogous to volcanic rocks in a natural history museum.

Lüscher’s use of sulfur was dictated, in part, by the desire to re-create the experience of looking at fire without showing it in literal form. These works narrate a process of extinguishment, of the initial flare replaced by its remains, with each element complementing the other rather than opposing it. Viewed within the gallery as a whole, these paintings and sculptures cohere in a total installation that emphasizes bipolarism as a necessary if not an entirely natural condition.

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