San Francisco

Carson Jeffries, Jack Ward, Joe Riccio, Howard Jones and Jim Pennuto

Galleria Carl Van der Voort

Artistically oriented technologists, as well as technologically oriented artists, were represented in the small but diversified selection of machines, electronic devices, optical systems, constructions, and kinetic sculptures which comprised the inventory of an exhibition entitled “Kinetic Light Show” recently presented at the Galeria Carl Van der Voort. Carson Jeffries, a professor of physics (UC, Berkeley) currently collaborating in an interdisciplinary symposium involving relationships between recent developments in physical technology on the one hand, and the graphic, plastic and performing arts, together with new concepts of environmental design, on the other, demonstrated a wide range of technological versatility in two contrasting exhibits. The more appealing of these was his Laser I, a pair of moving light images projected onto the gallery walls from a box housing a one-milliwatt helium-neon red laser and an optical system, with moving as well as stationary components, and projection apertures on two sides, at right angles, permitting the images to be projected simultaneously on two walls or on a wall and ceiling, depending upon the orientation of the box. The images thus projected were characterized by a kaleidoscopically shifting, web-like filigree of many intersecting threads and ruby-like points of gleaming, orange-red light in which there were also constant, undulating shifts of intensity, whereby certain areas within a moving mesh would brighten as others faded.

Esthetically less rewarding, but tending unfortunately to upstage many of the surrounding exhibits by sheer raucousness, was Jeffries’ KS (Kinetic Sculpture) 4 (subtitled Target), an electronic, audio-visual “environment” involving a multiplicity of electronic devices and circuits. The device embraces a tape recorder playing fragments of music by Cage, Berio and the late Edgar Varese, interspersed with readings from the writings of McLuhan, Sitwell and Dylan Thomas, as well as various natural and contrived noises (including such “technologica exotica” as “decay pulses of radioactive cobalt”). The tape recorder, coupled with a control panel for the entire device is attached to a scaffolding of metal rods. One side of this scaffolding frames a large translucent plastic target behind the bull’s-eye of which is the speaker for a tape recorder. The outer rods of the other three sides are loosely paneled with plastic color filters mounted in film holders, while the interior gridwork supports an elaborate network of prisms, flashing tungsten lamps, reflectors and the like. The gadget’s functions are so complex that a seven-page operating manual goes with its installation. In a nutshell, however, it draws heavily on the engineering techniques of computerized automation; certain modalities of audio-visual phenomena of which it is capable may be selected from a control panel offering a large number of choices; alternatively, the device may be set to run automatically in an apparent random spontaneity induced by a system of microphones and photoelectric optical perceptors setting up “feedback loops” through which the machine interacts with itself and with its immediate environment, including the movements and speech of spectators.

Polarobe by Jack Ward, another boxed optical system, is windowed on the side placed toward the viewer with a translucent. (but not transparent) opalescent, circular light screen ridged with vertical fluting and illuminated from within the box. Optical phenomena produced by a rotating light-polarizing element between the light source and the screen combine with the vertical fluting to generate a cyclical procession of waves and rippling striations across the face of the screen.

Another construction in the optical-box category was Joe Riccio’s Kolectra in which an aqueous flux of colored light images internally projected onto a frosted glass pane made this exhibit seem like an abstract mechanical parody of a tropical aquarium.

Howard Jones’ Time Piece presented two clock-face circles of tiny light bulbs on rectangles of metal plate with a dull, abrasive-powder finish; bulbs flashed, one at a time, in alternation between the two clock faces, sending brief, swift tentacles of reflection across the plates in patterns variously shaped by the fine scratch-mesh of the metal finish.

Garish and yet prosaic in conception were Jim Pennuto’s generally symmetrical plastic forms with illuminated neon tube embellishments. Andromeda, essentially a hollow cube of blue transparent sheet acrylic with interior lights by Jessica Jacobs was simple and lyrical in conception.

Palmer D. French