A view of Linling Lu: Soundwaves, on view at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
Credit: Lee Stalsworth

One room at the Phillips Collection is currently adorned with bright gradients of colors painted in concentric rings inside repetitive circular shapes. The colors and size of the shapes vary throughout the room, creating both a playful and trancelike feeling—and not just because the rings of color play tricks on the eyes to give the effect of movement. Soundwaves, by Baltimore-based artist Linling Lu, is an attempt to capture a visual of music, the exhibit a response to Philip Glass’ “Etude no. 16,” played on piano by Timo Andres. In a promotional video for the Phillips, Lu—a trained classical pianist who was born in rural China and studied landscape architecture in Beijing—describes Soundwaves as a kind of “spatial arrangement of the music.” Though the music doesn’t play in the gallery, viewers can open it via a QR code and listen on their phones. With Glass’ work in your ear, you can both see and feel what music might look like as you gaze from one circular canvas, apparently called tondos, to the next. But even without the soundtrack, Lu’s artwork has a depth that can almost be described as sound. The larger canvas invites viewers to get lost inside them, the rings pulling your eyes in and out—is this what a piano note feels like? To be clear, I’m not a critic of visual art. I’d describe myself as a novice, learning a language to describe what I see and how that makes me feel. So, to put it simply, Lu has created works that make you feel literally dreamy, like if you look long enough you just might fall through the looking glass. Linling Lu: Soundwaves runs through April 30 at the Phillips Collection. Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. phillipscollection.org. $10–$16.