Los Angeles

Chuck Prentiss

Esther Robles

Chuck Prentiss is a young Los Angeles artist and an accomplished technician whose kinetic light sculpture suffers, simply, from the generic malady of this enterprise, which is to say that, observing his pieces, one is as much interested in the mechanism as in the effect. However, it would be unfair to dismiss his kinetic light constructions out of hand on this basis. Prentiss achieves extraordinary illusionistic appearances with ingenious and yet relatively uncomplicated means. All the works now at Esther Robles are boxes, none measuring more than about 2 1/2 by 3 feet; they have coated glass faces, with small electric light bulbs inside, affixed in varying configurations to bars which revolve programmatically. The kinetic mechanisms supporting the lights are obscured by the glass, which acts as a not-quite-opaque one-way mirror; the glass also conditions the color of the lights at various stages in their trajectories. With the use of rear mirrors, each illumined filament is made to reflect infinitely back into simulated space. As the lights move, they appear as receding arcs or strings of fluctuating color, tracing three-dimensional patterns. The most complex and opulent box has three glass faces. Each offers an entirely singular view of the interior, and it is difficult to discover how the lights and mirrors are located to achieve such multifarious results. The sights presented here range from swinging lights trailing widening, planar reflections to a glittering panorama of rhythmically placed vertical light shafts, suspended in a boundless, quivering space.

What is needed in these beautiful constructions seems to be greater conceptual control, or some means of delineating firmly between a self-constituting esthetic and the realm of supererogatory entertainment. One wants to take them seriously as art, but is forced himself to do the mental work of transcending or overcoming the being entertained. It is important to understand, however, that there is no doubt of the seriousness of Prentiss’s intention, and that seriousness is strongly implied by the work itself. Prentiss has not been at this for long; if the exhibition carries experimental overtones, so much the better.

Jane Livingston