With the exception of a few Plexiglas works, Rockne Krebs (1938-2011) worked exclusively in the ephemeral media of laser and natural light, which he manipulated using prisms, mirrors, and electronic controls.
Sometimes his light projects were shown in interior spaces, but more often they were staged out of doors at night, where they could be experienced on a vast urban scale. In 1983, Krebs realized a work titled The Green Hypotenuse that incorporated a seven-mile laser beam extending from the Mount Wilson Observatory in the mountains outside Los Angeles to the campus of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. A critic referred to one of Krebs’ earlier works as an “Electric Fog-Filled Happening.”
What remains of these transitory projectsare the artist’s drawings as well as his written and photographic documentation. In 2010, Philip M. Smith, a member of the scientific community who has long been sensitive to the significance of Krebs’ accomplishments, gave the Spencer Museum of Art an important group of works by the artist, including eighteen drawings and one Plexiglas sculpture. Rockne Krebs: Drawings for Sculpture You Can Walk Through shares all of these works alongside a work previously owned by the Museum, with accompanying supporting materials.
Krebs was born in Kansas City, Missouri and studied at the University of Kansas where he worked with Eldon Tefft and ceramicist Sheldon Carry. He received a BFA in sculpture in 1961. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Krebs started down the path that led to his first experiments with lasers in 1967. He received many awards from such revered institutions as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, among others. In 1989, when the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, cancelled an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, it was Krebs who proposed and realized the idea of projecting works from the planned exhibition onto the façade of the Corcoran. Krebs’ works have been exhibited in Washington, DC, Chicago, Buffalo, New Orleans, and Osaka, Japan. His commissioned works have enlivened the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, and the Mall in Washington, DC.