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With the proliferation of light and video-based art in recent decades, it’s rather remarkable how forgotten the work of Thomas Wilfred has become. Wilfred was creating art from light—he called the work “lumia”—as early as 1919. His mechanical works produced rippling, ever-changing colored shadows of light, and often his works used clear, tungsten light bulbs to illuminate painted, record-like discs. Other times, he would manipulate light through the use of colored glass or metal. The gear-filled machines produced an early form of kinetic sculpture, but that ironically may have contributed to Wilfred’s later obscurity: Despite receiving praise from such artists as László Moholy-Nagy and Jackson Pollock, Wilfred’s works languished in various states of disrepair until specialists from the Yale University Art Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art refurbished them. The fruits of that labor are on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a tribute to an artist and tinkerer who was light years ahead of his time. Read more>>> The exhibition is on view daily 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., to Jan. 7, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and F streets NW. Free. (202) 633-7970. americanart.si.edu. (Louis Jacobson)

OH AND ALSO

National Book Award-winner and Atlantic national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks with Kojo Nnamdi about his new book We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy at Metropolitan AME Church. 5 p.m. at 1518 M St. NW. $0–$200.

Experimental rock group Yawning Man performs at Black Cat. 7:30 p.m. at 1811 14th St. NW. $15.

The National Museum of Natural History presents the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition Semifinals. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 10th St. and Constitution Ave. NW. Free.

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