The Phillips Collection presents Soundwaves by Baltimore-based artist Linling Lu, the first project in 2023 of the museum’s ongoing Intersections contemporary art series. On view from February 9–April 30, 2023, Soundwaves features Lu’s signature works of abstract paintings with concentric rings of bright, pulsating colors. Ranging in scale from small to human-size, the circular canvases (tondos), are equally hypnotic and sonic, inspiring contemplation and introspection.

Soundwaves responds to Philip Glass’s Etude no. 16 played on piano by Timo Andres as part of the 2015 Phillips Music program. Lu’s paintings visualize the sound into a spatial configuration—soundwaves. Repetitive notes and chords from Glass’s music are translated into a physical space: the seven notes played on the piano by the left hand are represented by seven paintings on the left side of the gallery, and the five notes played by the right hand are represented by five paintings on the right side of the gallery.


Vesela Sretenović, Director of Contemporary Art Initiatives and Academic Affairs, notes, “What Glass’s music and Lu’s painting share is sternness and rigor, but also something atmospheric and dreamy; they evoke stillness and wonder, emotion and reflection.”

The artist’s interest in sound and color stems from her background in music. Growing up, Lu studied classical piano and music theory, and later she would discover the writings and works of Wassily Kandinsky. While the vibrating colors of Lu’s abstractions recall Color Field and Washington Color School paintings as well as Op-Art, the soft surfaces and repetitive circular patterns arranged in various widths and intervals resonate with the musical precision of Bach and Vivaldi and the poetic melodies of Chopin.

“In this spatial arrangement, the emotions of music are carried through colors of paintings,” explains Lu. “Each painting becomes an instrument, a source of sound that materializes the poetic quality of music.”

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Add to Calendar 20230209 America/New_York 1600 21st Street NW Washington DC Linling Lu: Soundwaves