Rockne Krebs, 1938-2011

Though the obituary for Washington artist Rockne Krebs does not mention The Phillips Collection, the museum does own one of his works. It is not a laser light sculpture, but a freestanding chevron of Plexiglas, over five feet tall, titled No Land (1966). It was a gift of artist Sam Gilliam, his friend and former studio partner. Here is an excellent photo of the two of them together by photographer Carol Harrison:

Rockne Krebs and Sam Gilliam, 1984. Photo: Carol Harrison. Used by permission.

Rockne Krebs, No Land, 1966, Plexiglas, 66 1/2" high. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of Sam Gilliam, 1980.

No Land hasn’t been on view for a good number of years. It has bands of color with a clear area in the middle where one can see through the sculpture. It changes as one looks at it. Sometimes it looks as if color came out of the ground, made a sharp angled turn (like a light beam bouncing off a mirror), then went back into the floor. Other times, it looks like a mountain. Influenced by Washington Color School painters, Krebs made something solid yet transparent, and not at all dependent on canvas or even a wall to hang it on. From this he went on to work primarily with light. One can see a hint of his light works in No Land, as he begins to give color its freedom.

Click here for more of Carol Harrison’s photos, featuring Washington D.C. artists.

To read an interview with Sam Gilliam that discusses Rockne Krebs, their work, artists’ community, and relationship, see this 1989 oral history transcript at the Archives of American Art.

Ianthe Gergel, Museum Assistant