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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue

Schwartz, Barry N.
[The kinetic scope of Cassen and Stern],   pp. [95]-102 PDF (10.7 MB)

Page 102

102     built, special machines to widen the
possibilities of uninterrupted and unique
light projections.
What is still more impressive are the ways
they have incorporated light with other
art forms: with opera, in Stravinsky's
"Rake's Progress" for the Boston Opera
Company; with dance, in the ballet
"The Seven Deadly Sins" performed in
Vancouver's Art Festival; with art therapy, a
"theater of light," shadow dance and
mime in proposals now under consideration.
They have created environments of
exceptional quality at Wesleyan University,
at Delmonico's, and at Pratt Institute.
To the public eye they have recently
surfaced with the Architectural League
environment entitled "Vibrations."
Though they were invited to provide the
visuals for the Voyage to the Moon show
given at the White House, though thousands
flocked to the Psychedelic Celebrations,
though their names have more than once
graced the pages of Time, the fact is that
this show was the first offered solely by
them for a major art audience. And it is
certain that they do have an audience,
with an average of 500 people attending
The environment itself was a complex
affair which could only have been created
by Cassen and Stern, and in this case, it
revealed both their strengths and their
weaknesses. While parts were in themselves
beautiful and some of the design was
brilliant, the whole fell short of overall
unity. This is not a damaging criticism
because it is self-defeating to measure
artists who are leading in environmental
design by some abstract standard
verging on perfection. The entrance to the
environment contained a fountain
illuminated by a strobe light from below.
The effect was stunning, as each drop of
water was frozen in its motion and
suspended as pure particle. This visual
experience proved to be the overriding
motif of the environment, as dynamic
spheres of all sizes were the theme. The
second room featured a pool - that is,
the entire room had become a pool. One
walked, seemingly on the water, amid
strobes, dayglo, black light, and hung
spheres. The last room was a mylar igloo
containing a sound mobile activated by
light. It appears this was the first time the
colors of light have been used to actuate
corresponding sounds. It was the first
room that provided the ambiguous
experience: elements of beauty, and
sculptural crowding; luminous and lovely
forms moving across one's vision abruptly
interrupted by stark white light, rudely
disengaging one's involvement; a neon
sculpture, quite fine in its execution, but
quite out of place in the exhibit; and walls
that were light forms and walls that were
walls. The reaction of audience and
reviewers was enthusiastic and almost
totally favorable. We want this freshness
and fun in art, and Cassen and Stern are
the ones to provide it.
The presentation was an environment in
fact rather than in theory. Cassen and
Stern did not surround themselves with the
kind of verbal justifications typical of art
shows too often erroneously offered as
environments. When people came to the
Architectural League, they stayed. They
took their shoes off and perilously bounced
across a foam rubber floor which substituted
tactility for stability. They sat for long
periods talking, resting, and being in a
world of unfamiliar lights and forms. The
routine and the mundane lay just a step
outside, but most had to be asked to
make that trip.
One contemplates the future work of
Jackie Cassen and Rudi Stern with
excitement and high expectation. The
potential of light to transform living space,
the implications for interior design,
architecture, and the art gallery, are very
great. If anyone is capable of realizing this
potential, it is Cassen and Stern. In the
future of light, their role will be major.

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