Rockne Krebs: A pioneer of laser art and a master of contemporary environmental sculpture
Rockne Krebs was an ILDA member in the mid-1990s to 2000.
"All his art, his light works and his animals, his sculptures, and his drawings, pay homage to the cycles of the natural, to energy and time." - Paul Richard, The Washington Post, 1978
Birthdays, Whales and Debts
Neo-Green, the showcase exhibit for the revamped Memorial Art Gallery, will be displayed for an invitation-only crowd tomorrow night – and on a special, live Channel 21 telecast from 8 to 9 p.m…
The laser exhibit will then be available to the public Sunday through Friday nights, from 9 to 11 p.m…
The miles-long beams of green-blue light that will connect the gallery with the campus and with downtown won’t be as readily visible from a distance, but are designed in a more philosophical sense to link the Memorial Art Gallery and its parent UR campus to the host community – Rochester.
Neo-Green is such a large work that it can’t be totally viewed at one time, from one place.
“I particularly enjoy the idea that I can produce something that occupies such a large space,” Krebs said, “but can also be changed quickly and easily, as I see fit.”
Krebs explained that the patterns of laser light are created through a maze of three lasers generators and about 20 mirrors on buildings at the gallery and on the campus. A new “work” results when the degree of light or the angles of any of the mirrors are changed.
It is the ephemeral, organic quality of laser art that especially appeals to Krebs, who approaches the spontaneity of laser art as a jazz musician embraces improvisation.
“I started out as a sculptor in which I explored ideas about space. And space is meaningless without light.”
At one point, Krebs said, he constructed sculptures of transparent plexiglass. “I walked away from it, turned around, and it seemed to have disappeared. At that moment the idea was triggered to work with lasers. I liked the idea of structuring things in space that aren’t material.”
Krebs, 48, who built his first laser installation in 1968, said, “I’ve always said I wanted to build sculptures that people would walk through.”
And, in effect, Rochesterians are being invited to walk through Neo-Green.
Krebs wants people to feel free to stroll about the gallery grounds, examining Neo-Green from underneath the designs, which will be played off the gallery buildings and the two rows of linden trees in front of the structure.
He said he designs his works to be viewed up close – and not from a distance, as one might view fireworks.
People also can photograph the work. Ron Baird, a photographic specialist at Eastman Kodak Co., suggests that photographers use 400 speed film, and a wide-open F stop (like F2), with a speed of one-half or one-quarter second. “But the camera must be supported on a tripod, or at least be sitting on your rolled-up coat on a rock or a ledge.”
If other illumination is present – such as streetlights – photographers could try one-fifteenth of a second at F2, Baird added.
(Another suggestion is to “bracket,” or shoot at a variety of F-stops and speeds to improve one’s chances of getting a good exposure.)
Krebs said the lasers won’t hurt anyone; they’ll be out of reach. The only potential danger is if someone were to look directly down a laser beam toward the source – much like the danger of looking at the sun. But the public won’t be in a position to do that.
The laser beam itself is a special form of light that has been amplified by specific molecular action within the projector. The word stands for: “light amplification by stimulated emissions of radiation.”
White light from conventional sources diffuses in all directions, a beam of laser light travels in a tight, narrow path. For example, a half-inch beam will expand only to about three inches while traveling one mile.
“Lasers are only in their infancy,” said Krebs, “I could see myself working in lasers for the rest of my life.”
He added, though, that laser artists have met with their share of naysayers.
“Lasers aren’t firmly established in the arts community,” he admits. “But lasers are really only a tool to be used by the artist.”
“Fortunately, some of the earliest work in lasers by artists was quite strong, and much of it occurred before lasers became prominent in the entertainment field.”
Krebs added that laser art also has had difficulty finding acceptance because it isn’t easily “collectible,” unlike paintings that can be hung on a wall, or marble or metal sculptures that can adorn a patio.
In other words, Neo-Green will be here through Friday – and then it’ll disappear into thin air.”
Jack Garner, Sculpture in the Sky: Rochester will be wrapped in light in ‘Neo-Green’, 1987
The One Night Stand, Rockne Krebs, December 31, 1977 - January 1, 1978, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD.
The One Night Stand, Rockne Krebs,
December 31, 1977 - January 1, 1978
Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD.
Fireworks by Zambelli Fireworks.
First time ever lasers and fireworks shown together.
It’s a family affair, 1979
Happy Father’s Day
Photographs of Rockne’s father, Arthur Krebs, an engineer, assisting him with the construction of his public art sculpture The White Tornado for the atrium of the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
in Topeka, Kansas. Commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration Art-in-Architecture Program. An environmental sculpture 60 feet high with a tornado-like element on which white neon lightning bolts are placed to form a five-pointed star when viewed from below - sunlight, prisms, white neon, white painted aluminum, mirrors, and scrim fabric.
Restoration of The White Tornado was completed by McKay Lodge Laboratory Fine Art Conservation in 2017.
A photomontage of Rockne’s dad, Arthur Krebs, a great father,
Smoke Drawing Series
Rockne Krebs, August 1973
Rockne Krebs: Lasers and Candle Smoke
Public Art Works on Paper SciArt HighTech LowTech
Art and Technology
The other is a selection from his hitherto unknown works on paper, which someday could easily serve as the basis for a more extensive exhibition that examines how he used the oldest art medium to describe his aspirations for the newest. - Dan Cameron, August 2022
Cameron, Dan / Zahn, Mike / Pazo Fine Art, The Technological Sublime, 2022.
Rockne Krebs: Born in 1938 in Kansas City, Missouri, Rockne Krebs was, by the 1970s, a major pioneer in public artworks. Krebs was one of the first artists to experiment with lasers and other light forms in his works, the first to create three-dimensional installations with light, and the first to deploy lasers in large-scale public works…
Public Art Review, Spring/Summer 2012, In Memory: Rockne Krebs
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Philadelphia Museum Of Art
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Urban Scale Laser Sculpture
Urban-Scale Laser Sculpture
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