Christmas Lights Kansas City, Missouri, 1956, by Rockne Krebs.
“I find CITY LIGHTS painted in 1956 by Krebs as a teenager of the Christmas lights in the Plaza in Kansas City, prophetic of the homages to the urban landscape that he would create a decade and a half later and would describe in a 1972 essay titled Light Is The City At Night. In the interim Krebs would pursue the rather typical course of the serious student artist, majoring in sculpture at the University of Kansas with the sculptors Elden Tefft, Bernard Frazier, Jim Bass and James Sterrit. The fact of his long artistic apprenticeship has been over looked because he appeared to most art world observers to have been born with lasers in the sixties….” Jay Belloli, 1990
I first met Rockne in 1982. Sam Gilliam asked him to come downstairs from his studio to beat me in ping pong.
Rockne, Sam and I agreed to meet at their studios on 14th & U.
“I Had a Friend in High School”
“My serve is so good,
“I am in your debt, and all I did was stand briefly in front of your camera. Sincerely, Rockne Krebs, Sept. 2008 P.S. And beat you in ping pong. Ho, Ho, Ho! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Thank you!”
Rockne saved me by agreeing to do a commercial job
(I believe his only one)
for a GE marketing campaign with me.
- Marc Palumbo
October 15, 2011
Thank you library & archives staff at LACMA’s Library!
Balch Art Research Library
LACMA Unframed / Balch Library: Before and After
“…the renovated library is now also home to the new
Art + Technology Lab…
Library displays feature special selections from the archives, hand-picked by the library and archives staff. Currently, you’ll find fascinating documentation from the original Art and Technology program that ran from 1967 to 1971, including a drawing by artist Rockne Krebs for his laser-beam installation, produced in collaboration with the Hewlett-Packard Corporation.
Displayed alongside is a letter of recommendation by curator
Sam Wagstaff on behalf of artist James Lee Byars, playfully hand scrawled in crayon….” April 21, 2014
“Of the 38 major pieces I’ve made in the last 10 years, two still exist. Perhaps I ought to start making still-lifes of flowers.” Rockne Krebs, 1977, The Washington Post.
‘Rockne Krebs is recognized as one of Washington’s finest artists. Krebs “Of the 38 major pieces I’ve made in the last 10 years, two still exist. Perhaps I ought to start making still-lifes of flowers.”’ *1
“I think of these as pieces which you experience in total but see only in sequence or passages. The experience is a remembered experience, almost as a piece of music of which you hear the progression. In this case you see the progression of the piece and your final total experience is one of memory.”
Rockne Krebs, 1970 *2
“’Crazy, man!’ is the way young people describe it as the beam dances merrily as it bounces off trees, the waters of the lagoon…” *3
“I was disheartened to read Rockne’s 1977 statement, that of the thirty-eight major pieces he had made, only four were still extant.
Rockne’s sobering quote speaks volumes about the temporal nature of all art. However, there is one piece that certainly exists and has become a touchstone for me. Miami Line is a signature Krebs light sculpture that stretches for a third of a mile along the under edge of a Metrorail overpass in downtown Miami ….” *4
William Dunlap, Dec. 2, 2011
“...Krebs’s made one feel extremely happy and proud to be alive at a particular time and place…” *5
*2. The Sixth National Sculpture Conference, 1970, National Sculpture Center, the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. Edited by Elden C. Tefft, published 1971. Published transcript of Krebs’ lecture.
*3. Griffin, Thomas. One-the Beam Museum Draws ‘Em Like Moths, The States-Item New Orleans, 1971.
*4. Harrison, Carol. Rockne Krebs Photographs + Interpretations, 2013.
*5. Forgey, Benjamin. Art Life on the Edges, essay, Washington Art Matters: Art Life in the Capital 1940-1990, 2013.
The Neon Bridge revisited, by Neil Johnson. Rockne Krebs’ Red River Bridge public art sculpture, Shreveport, LA. The Shreveport Times
Shreveport/Bossier's Texas Street bridge glows from the neon
lights that were installed in 1994.
In 1993, Mayor Hazel Beard flipped a switch and the Texas Street
Bridge — officially, the Long-Allen Bridge, built in 1934 — soon became known as The Neon Bridge.
Even though many people questioned its cost and scratched their
heads over all the hoop-la, the goal of Shreveport officials (City Hall,
Downtown Development Authority, and Shreveport Regional Arts Council) was to create a signature piece of public art that would not only help define Shreveport in a creative, strikingly visual, and very public way, but connect Shreveport with its sister city on the other side of the river.
Rockne Krebs (1938-2011), an artist from Washington D.C.,
Despite an engineering struggle, the laser facet of the project
failed in the offset. Years later, the spotlights would be turned off and finally removed. The neon remained on, but, sadly, it was discovered that constant vibration and road dust and grime were the enemies of neon fixtures and tubes. The tubes began to fail and be replaced, but eventually the speed at which the neon failed outstripped the maintenance money to replace them. Repairing the neon was both very difficult and very inconvenient.
After the bridge succeeded in becoming an artistic icon, today, there is much grumbling about the “non-neon bridge.” Only a small percentage of it remains lit.
But fans of the art should take heart!
Pam Atchison, SRAC executive director, assured me that, first, everyone is quite aware of the condition of the neon artwork, and secondly, there is ongoing activity below radar to find the money to, not only replace the lights, but replace the neon with a type of LED light that strongly resembles neon and is much more stable. Though not exactly the same product, check out the “neon” on the Tourist Bureau mural some evening.
Atchison said they had been shooting for the end of 2014 for the
neon rehab, but it will probably be in 2015. With an extremely tight city budget, it’s mostly about finding just the right grant to apply for — and win.
When the next switch is thrown, I will be standing on the riverbank, excited to see the lit bridge again reflected gloriously in the river below. To the Neon Bridge doubters, I will once again state, “It is a work of art, created by a sculptor using light to transform the bridge. It is not decoration.”
I might also add: Patience.
Neil Johnson is the owner of Neil Johnson Photography and is
based in Shreveport-Bossier City.
On the back of the drawing: “Red River Dave strumming to sundown on the Red River and contemplating the reflection of the Texas Street Bridge. Red River Dave was a Texas cowboy singer from the 33 rpm record era.” Rockne Krebs, 9/1991.
Krebs titled his light sculpture on the Texas Street Bridge, The Red River Bridge, it soon became known as The Neon Bridge.
A wonderful video of Shreveport/Bossier’s waterfront with
stunning Neon Bridge footage, Dec. 2008.
“Shreveport, Louisiana's Nighttime Waterfront Skyline”
In Memory of Philip M. Smith
Philip M. Smith, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a leader in national and international science and technology policy. He was the Director of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in the 1980s and 1990s. Previously
he was an Associate Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Ford and Carter administrations.
Phil Smith and Rockne Krebs had a friendship that spanned more
than four decades, and a strong mutual respect for each other’s life's
Phil's friendship, sound advice and guidance will be sadly missed.
In Phil’s words -
“Rockne Krebs: An Appreciation
Rockne and I met not long after his breakout show in the 1960s at
the Corcoran where “Ra” and his other site-specific pieces took the Washington and indeed the national art world by storm. I sought him and we met for dinner. We hit it off, starting a life-long friendship that only ended with his death in 2011.
Although I knew the work of “light artists” such as Dan Flavin, I was
intrigued by Rockne’s vision for using light to create monumental environmental works as well as smaller pieces. He was fascinated by my world of science and technology and the latest discoveries in all fields. So we became fast friends, talking long into the night at his studio, at my house in Washington, DC, and on visits at the country studio in Burgess, Virginia. He visited me for lunch at the White
House Mess, one time with Lynda Benglis in tow and at the National Academy of Sciences where I arranged an exhibition of his drawings.
With a huge number of other friends we watched the bicentennial fireworks on the Mall in 1976.
One evening at his DC studio, fueled by some wine, I described current research in lightning, telling Rockne that if we could capture all the daily lightning discharges on earth we could supply electricity to all humankind. A couple months later I saw “Lightning Sculpture," an imaginary piece that created a machine to harness lightning thus creating huge sculptural works in the sky. It was another sculptural use of light from Rockne’s standpoint. The drawing hung in my office in the big Victorian executive office building west of the White House for six years and then in my office at the National Academy of Sciences for a decade. With Rockne’s concurrence I gave “Lightning Sculpture” to the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas (his
alma mater) in 2010.” Philip M. Smith, January, 12, 2012
1970 Scanning Negatives: Walter Hopps, Joe Cameron, Dorothy Gilliam, Sam Gilliam, John Gossage, and more. Photographs by Rockne Krebs.
From the Archive: Washington, DC, 1970. Scanning negatives,
a roll of creative minds at work together.
Walter Hopps, Joe Cameron, Dorothy Gilliam, Sam Gilliam, John Gossage, and more. Photographs by Rockne Krebs. Never-before-printed. Help naming the unidentified people would be appreciated.
Walter Hopps, 1970, arriving at Sam Gilliam’s, Washington, DC
Unidentified gentleman, 1970, and a great candid shot.
On this day in 1976, the Rockne Krebs Laser Sculpture at the St. Petersburg Pier was unveiled by Glenn Anderson
On this day in 1976, the Rockne Krebs Laser Sculpture installation at the St. Petersburg Municipal Pier was unveiled.
It consisted to two pieces. The laser beam configuration itself was titled, "Starboard" while the equipment installation inside the Pier was called, "Home on the Range, Part VI."
I was the Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Arts Commission and the Project Director for Rockne's work here. It was a really incredible and wondrous work of art so far ahead of its time that technology was not able to keep up with it.
Like laser light itself, it had a short but brilliant life.
- Glenn Anderson
St. Petersburg, FL. laser sculpture back in the news.
The Tampa Tribune, November 6, 2013,
1977 artist’s work debunks rumor of UFO in St. Pete, by Paul Guzzo
Documentation of a 1977 installation by laser artist Rockne Krebs was recently mistaken for documentation of a UFO landing.
A Florida newspaper debunks the myth.
Excerpt from Glenn Anderson’s remembrance in Rockne Krebs Photographs + Interpretations by Carol Harrison
A brief anecdote on my friendship with Rockne Krebs
“….I won’t go into details on the wonder of that artwork. When it was working, it was “other worldly” and the 8th wonder of the world. But
when it was broken down, it was a curse…The failure was not Rockne’s fault. He had done the best he could, and brilliantly, but he was always so far ahead of the curve as an artist, science had not kept up with reliable technology. In that day, large lasers were very temperamental and unreliable but if that was the medium an artist wanted to explore, he had few options.
….I was daily working with him in some way and we were connected at the hip in so far as our futures in St. Petersburg were concerned…. My close daily contact with Rockne gave me insight into both him as a human being and as an artist. As a functioning human being I experienced his incredible drive and work ethic. He was driven to see that next thing that “had never been seen before”…the ultimate goal of a highly functioning artist. As an artist, he was dedicated to the truth and purity of both concept as well as visual experience. The artist Rockne had to share the scientist Rockne….” 1*
- Glenn Anderson
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