Alex Nicoloff papers

Inclusive Dates: 
circa 1972–2006
Survey Repository: 

This record forms part of the Chicago’s Art-Related Archival Materials: A Terra Foundation Resource project funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art. For this project, the Archives surveyed archival repositories throughout the Chicago region to identify art-related materials contained in their holdings. While the Archives of American Art does not own any of the materials described herein, information about those materials and links to the original repositories have been included when available.

Descriptive Summary

Alex Nicoloff Papers (13 items) consists of papers and some photographs related to YLEM, a group of artists using science and technology, on subjects such as utilizing motion and light to create art. The collection includes an original drawing and photographs of installation art projects including “prism reflections on white steel sculpture (1980s?)” and “spectralware (1972)” by Alex Nicoloff. There is also an article written by both Alex and Martha Nicoloff entitled “Reflections on Refractions: Kinetic Light-Painting Music in the Solar Spectrum”.


Alex Nicoloff Papers (1 portfolio) consists of original items (exhibit catalog, greeting cards, printed material), photographs, and photocopied/scanned images documenting 31 artistic projects (graphics, installations, sculptures, exhibit design systems, “Spectralwave”; kinetic light-paintings; calligraphy) undertaken by Alex Nicoloff from his student days through his professional career and retirement years.

Biographical Historical Note

Alex Nicoloff received a BS in Visual Design from ID in 1953 and an MS in Art Education at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1954. He taught at the Institute of Design and at Lake Forest College before moving to California where he served as exhibit designer at Lowie Museum of Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley. He produced numerous art works in a variety of media, and most recently had been “investigating light painting in the solar spectrum in association with music.”

YLEM: Artists Using Science and Technology was founded in Palo Alto, California, in 1981. The name “ylem” came from a physics text and refers to the primordial stuff that expanded in the Big Bang to create the universe.