Lumia Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light Keely Orgeman, James Turrell, Maibritt Borgen, Jason DeBlock, Carol Snow, Gregory Zinman

Publication date:
23 May 2017
Yale University Art Gallery
172 pages: 273 x 235mm
161 color + 8 b-w illus.
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A long-overdue publication that restores Wilfred to the art-historical canon 

Lumia presents a long-overdue reevaluation of the groundbreaking artist Thomas Wilfred (1889–1968), whose unprecedented works prefigured light art in America. As early as 1919, many years before the advent of consumer television and video technology, Wilfred began experimenting with light as his primary artistic medium, developing the means to control and project unique compositions of colorful, undulating light forms, which he referred to collectively as lumia. Manifested as both live performances on a cinematic scale and self-contained structures, Wilfred’s innovative displays captivated audiences and influenced generations of artists to come. This publication, the first dedicated to Wilfred in over forty years, draws on the artist’s personal archives and includes a number of insightful essays that trace the development of his work and its relation to his cultural milieu. Featuring a foreword by the celebrated artist James Turrell, Lumia helps to secure Wilfred’s rightful place within the canon of modern art.


Keely Orgeman is the Alice and Allan Kaplan Assistant Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale University Art Gallery. 

“[A] revelatory exhibition . . . as if the tectonic plates that compose the stories of twentieth-century art and media have shifted. . . . [Wilfred] belongs not only in the book of modernism but in the story of American visionary philosophy as well.”—Rebekah Rutkoff, Artforum