Rockne Krebs' exhibit, now at Fraser's Stable, is quirky, moving, and unfamiliar. It includes neither lines of laser light, glowing planes of Plexiglas, nor slowly marching sunbeams. This exhibition is, instead, Rockne Krebs' self-portrait.
No artist in this city has produced work more amazing. Rockne Krebs has drawn, in the night sky above Arlington, a perfect laser triangle whose closest point dissolved in glinting Ozgreen light on the waves of the Potomac. He has sprinkled us with prismproduced rainbows and wrapped us round with fogs. But the Krebs that we know best is not the Krebs that we see here.
These drawings only hint at his elegant geometries, his dazzling technologies. Confessional, autobiographical, they deal with whales, the debts Krebs owes to others, with his feelings and his politics, his birthdays and his zoo.
The oldest work on view, a hippo made of clay, was done when he was 5. He also shows an envelope on which he sketched, one evening, the suffering of whales, their wisdom and the sea. Krebs has been a minimalist, an advanced technologist, a conceptualist of sorts, but he is not that only. One melancholy birthday he collaged a bleeding ape with sparkling diamond tears. What unites these varied works with his weightless urban sculptures is a kind of hunger, a quality of spirit. These animals and toys, diaries and poems, are - as are his light structures - traces of the questings that have, since early childhood, driven him toward art.
He did not have it easy. Even when most polished, his art is never slick. He is no pencil prodigy, he struggles when he draws. His work, though often troubled, is at all times honest.
In 1965, when a newcomer to Washington, a sculpture that he made was given the first prize at the Corcoran Area Show. A rather academic work, made of painted wood and metal in a constructivist-cubist style, it is here on view.
The references of this piece to others, to Kenneth Noland and Tony Caro, are no longer of much interest. What makes it intriguing is the way that it predicts what was to come. It hints at orbs and landscape, and its title is prophetic. It is called "One Sun." Krebs had not yet worked with laser beams or sunshine, but he was even then, perhaps without quite knowing it, reaching toward pure light.
And not toward pure light only. His art, as this exhibit demonstrates, has always been inclusive. When he asks us to peer through his transparent planes of Plexiglas, or collages, rivers, streets and cities, to his laser works, he draws into his art as much as it can bear.
Not all his work is beautiful. Some of it is clunky. There is a painted seashell here, part flag, part star, part nymph, it is at once a Bicentennial joke and a mythic pun. This piece, and his laser lines, do not look much alike, but they rise from the same wellspring. All fine artists show us what they feel must be seen. Krebs is freer with his feelings now than he ever has been, but his motives hae not changed. All his art, his light works and his animals, his sculptures and his drawings, pay homage to the cycles of the natural, to energy and time. His show at Fraser's Stable, Rear 1910 S St. NW., closes on March 9.
Fraser's Stable also is showing the delicate and eerie sculptures of Washington's John Dickson. Made of twigs and wire mesh, broken bits of dowels, strings and wooden lathing - materials birds might gather for the building of their nests - they seems to rise on tiptoe to stare one in the eye. Though entirely abstract, they have an idol's presence, as if some troop of woodland spirits had scavenged in the alleys searching for materials with which to manifest themselves. One sees in Dickson's work hints of prehistoric forest shrines, primitive canoes, shelters, weapons, tusks. These figures seem unplanned. One imagines that the artist, like some abstract expressionist painter, is open at each moment to some new inspiration. Despite their splatterings of paint and the freely improvised process of their making, these objects cast a mood not of anguish, but of grace. His show, too, closes on March 9.
The Diane Brown Gallery, 2028 P St. NW., is showing recent figure drawings by Washington's Andrew Hudson. His models have not changed, nor has the edgy energy with which his pencil lines are charged, but these drawings seem to me the best that he has done.
The lessons of the color painters are somehow oddly blended with a proud suggestion of sexual intensity in these drawings done from life. Tom. Marilyn, and Barry, Hudson's friends and models, hug each other, preen, and lounge about in languor. Their images have been positioned, with much sophistication, on open fields of white space. Hudson here is working at a larger scale, and with brighter colors than he has used before. His show closes March 11.
The show by Reesey Shaw, now at the Henri Gallery, 21st and P Streets NW., was announced, in the art magazines, by a photo of the artist, naked, tied down to a cross. The objects on display will disappont those viewers lured into the gallery by that advertisement's jolt. Shaw's show is called "Crosses and Altars." The crosses have been given vestigial arms and necks, and assorted fleshy bulges. The "altars," done in pastel blues and pinks, are so flimsily constructed of cloth and bits of cardboard, that one expects some irritated spirit to send them crashing to the floor.
The WPA, 1227 G St. NW., is showing two accomplished local sculptors, Genna Watson and Nade Haley. They do not have much in common.Watson's tortured figures might give the viewer nightmares were they not so well made. A life-size woman sits before an open window, her body blown to tatters by the incoming wind. Her equally unlucky neighbors have been damaged in a variety of ways. Some are pierced with weapons, some are hanged. A hyena howls beside them. Its mouth is full of metal pins, it has a chicken wire body, a skeleton of pipe cleaners, and a gullet made of string. An unforgettable animal, it seems to me the strongest work in her horrifying show.
Nade Haley's untitled structures, were they made of paper, might seem the products of some art school design class, but they are of red oak. Most of them appear to be bent and cut and folded planes. They are beautifully finished, but one is not quite sure why she went to all that trouble. She also shows open rectangular solids made of wire that have been slightly squashed. Her cool and restrained show is damaged by the tortured terrors on display downstairs. The Watson-Haley show closes March 11.