Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rockne Krebs and Sam Gilliam Opens July 19

The exhibition includes never before displayed items provided by architect Steven Spurlock, who worked with my good friend Sam Gilliam for more than 20 years.
For many artists, making the transition from gallery to public art is about growing awareness of their work, and larger paychecks. For D.C. arts legends Rockne Krebs and Sam Gilliam, public artworks were not only an important component of how they made a living, but a compelling motivator in their artistic development. 
Rockne Krebs (1938-2011) was a sculpture wunderkind, whose early success was compounded by timely experiments with technology. Krebs career started with plexiglass and aluminum sculptures that exploded the viewer’s sense of their own location, and in 1968 Paul Richard wrote in the Washington Post that Krebs early work, “exhibits an intensity and restraint that is rare indeed.” In 1973 Krebs began to create “Sculpture without object” – primarily works made with lasers. His first experiments (in DC) turned into city wide installations across the country, and globe. This exhibition features public artworks built and unbuilt; proposals never funded, and proposals and documentation of works that came into being. 
Sam Gilliam (1933 – ) is a DC artistic legend who became famous for his color-washed canvases removed from the stretcher. In 1971, Paul Richard in the Washington Post wrote that Gilliam’s swooping canvases, hung from walls and ceilings, “have the look of revolution, old conventions overturned, the past abandoned.” Gilliam’s early success opened the door to public art commissions, and a DC gallery owner connected Gilliam with architect Steven Spurlock to help the artist with his first proposal preparation. Over the next twenty years, as he independently rose to leadership as an architect, Spurlock continued to assist Gilliam, and the exhibition includes the architect’s never-before-displayed drawings, plans, and photographs. 
Curator Mollie Berger wrote, “The objective is to represent the planning and design of public art projects, both built and unbuilt, by two artists who used vastly different materials, but seem to be concerned with similar elements of space, color and presence… Gilliam’s brightly colored, interlocking shapes offer a counterpoint to the gray steel and stone that surround them. Krebs’s penetrating light displays surpass the physical space itself and reach for the sun and stars that inspired the artist.” 
The exhibit will feed archival materials into the recently created Jefferson Place Gallery Archive,, documenting DC’s first artist cooperative gallery, and the work of thirty DC artists who worked through the gallery (including Krebs and Gilliam.) 
The exhibition will be on display in the Washington Studio School’s Gallery, at 2129 S Street, NW Washington, DC 20008, from July 19 to August 3rd, 2018. 
An opening celebration and gallery talk are to be scheduled. 
A catalog, including essay by John Anderson (Washington City Paper, reSculpture), is being produced for the exhibition.
The project is funded through a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts to project director Robert Bettmann, and produced through partnerships with the non-profits Day Eight and The Washington Studio School.

The mission of Day Eight is to empower individuals and communities to participate in the arts through the production, publication, and promotion of creative projects. For more information, visit

Artist Talk and Ice Cream Party