Adam Peiperl’s Kinetic Light Sculptures

IN HONOR OF ARTIST ADAM PEIPERL, WHO DIED TODAY, I AM REPOSTING THIS SITE DEDICATED TO HIS MEMORY AND WORKS OF ART.

 

As part of an ongoing series on contemporary artists, we are spotlighting the works of Adam Peiperl (pronounced “pieperl”) known for his stunning kinetic light sculptures and the videos utilizing them, starting with Rock below:

Adam Peiperl Rock

Adam Peiperl, Rock (1969), Whitney Museum of American Art (photo by artist)

 

Born in Poland in 1935, Adam Peiperl survived the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland at the age of 9 with his parents.  After moving to Paris, he graduated from high school there, and the family emigrated to the United States in 1953. Peiperl obtained a BS degree in chemistry from The George Washington University in 1957, and the following year married Martha Dorf, a chemistry graduate of American University.

Adam Peiperl was introduced to the color-generating properties of polarized light in a course that he took as part of his chemistry curriculum.  Intrigued by the possibility of applying this effect to kinetic sculpture, in 1968 he devised a system  in which the optically active plastic material he was using was placed in water, and the latter was agitated with a magnetic stirrer (a device familiar to him from the chemistry laboratory) in polarized light.  When in 1968 Peiperl showed the resulting artwork to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, it was immediately accepted in the “Light and Art” exhibition, which was in progress there.

Light and Art program sheet

Light and Art program sheet

He donated a prototype to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology, and later received a patent on his art invention.

Adam Peiperl with Lynda Johnson Robb and National Gallery of Art Director J. Carter Brown at 1968 Corcoran Ball

Photo by Washington Evening Star newspaper, Adam Peiperl Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Invited by the Corcoran Gallery to exhibit a sculpture at the 1968 Corcoran Ball, he met President Johnson’s daughter Lynda Robb and National Gallery Director J. Carter Brown, who was accompanying her.  Invited by Mrs. Robb to the White House, Peiperl presented her with one of his Astralite light sculptures, which she later told him was installed in the solarium.

White House Letter

White House Letter

Also in attendance at the Corcoran Ball was Francis K. Lloyd, director of the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery in New York, who a few days later signed Peiperl to a contract in his gallery.

Peiperl Pollock Marlborough advert in NY Times

Peiperl Pollock Marlborough advert in NY Times

A filmmaker, Ron Hays, saw one of Peiperl’s sculptures on public display in Philadelphia in 1970, then filmed some of the sculptures in the artist’s studio.  This resulted in Hays’ film Daphnis and Chloe (1971) with music by Maurice Ravel, which in 1971 was screened  at the National Collection of Fine Arts (now Smithsonian American Art Museum), where some of Peiperl’s sculptures were on loan.

National Academy of Sciences Letter

In another version of his sculpture, Peiperl shapes the material and rotates it on a turntable in polarized light, no water being used.  This is exemplified by the sculpture A Hole in the Sky,

Adam Peiperl, A Hole in the Sky, 2001. Photo by the artist, 2001

Adam Peiperl, A Hole in the Sky, Photo by the artist, 2001

 

and by the powerful sculpture Origin,

Adam Peiperl, Origin, 1971. Photo by artist, 1971

Adam Peiperl, Origin, 1971. Photo by artist, 1971

 

 

Adam Peiperl, Oct. 2009. Photo by Martha Peiperl

 

 

Adam Peiperl with National Gallery Director, J. Carter Brown at a preview opening of the gallery's exhibition, "Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth," Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Adam Peiperl with National Gallery Director, J. Carter Brown at a preview opening of the gallery’s exhibition, “Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth,” Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

 

Adam Peiperl with Brooke (Mrs. Vincent) Astor at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition, "Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth," Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Adam Peiperl with Brooke (Mrs. Vincent) Astor at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition, “Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth,” Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Peiperl sculptures are in the following public collections:

  1. Astralite 7, 1968, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
  2. Astralite 85B, 2005,  Boijmans–Van Beuningen Museum
  3. Astralite 138, 1970, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  4. Ice Palace, 1969, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  5. Astralite III, 1968, National Museum of American History
  6. Astralite, October 23, 1996, Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C.
  7. Respite, 2015, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma
  8. Tenderness, 1969, Walker Art Center
  9. Rock, 1969, Whitney Museum of American Art
  10. Raised Rock, 2016, Art Institute of Chicago

Artist’s wife Martha with Astralite 138 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 2004 exhibition, “Radicals and Conservatives: Abstraction 1945 to the Present.” Photo by the artist, 2004

 

Adam Peiperl with wall text at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden during the exhibition

Adam Peiperl with wall text at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden during the exhibition Refract, Reflect, Project: Light Works from the Collection, Feb. 15-April 8, 2007.

 

 

Click here for a recent video combining Peiperl’s sculpture with an excerpt of a Chopin nocturne.

 

In this photomontage, Irene with Guardians, 2012, Peiperl has combined his sculpture Guardians with a photograph of dancer Irene E. Beausoleil taken by artist photographer Scott Sutherland.

Adam Peiperl, Irene with Guardians, 2012, photomontage

Irene with Guardians, 2012

 

And here, Peiperl has combined (2014) his sculpture Arches with a photograph of Maria Alster taken by Michal Alster.

Maria Alster with Peiperl's Arches

Maria Alster with Peiperl’s Arches

 

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, has posted Adam’s work in its collection to the Europeana portal.

 

 Letter from George Washington University President Trachtenberg

 

The Baltimore Museum of Art gave Adam Peiperl his first museum solo exhibition in the fall of 1969.  In its review of the show, the Baltimore Sun included the following:

Diana F. Johnson, Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art, in discussing Adam Peiperl’s works, has said, The Astralites help to prove that science and technology can be used effectively in the creation of objects which have among other things great aesthetic quality.  In this decade we have witnessed a tremendous expansion of creative activity in those areas where science and art can mutually serve one another.  Because it has been a time of exploration and experimentation, very often the resulting objects bred of disparate purposes have failed to satisfy aesthetically, serving merely as hopeful indications of what lies ahead in the future.  For me, Mr. Peiperl’s works are so satisfying because they display scientific knowledge serving a highly developed aesthetic sensibility and stand by themselves as objects of great beauty and mysterious fascination.”

 

 

On November 23, 1969, Victoria Donohoe, art critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, reviewed Peiperl’s show which had traveled from the Baltimore Museum of Art to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA).  In her review, she stated:

“Despite a certain preoccupation with technical resources, Peiperl doesn’t entrap himself in a quest for flashy novelty.  Instead, these are some of the most interesting, light-hearted products of the marriage between art and technology that the reviewer has yet encountered.”

 

On November 30, 1969, Dorothy Grafly, art critic of the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin, in commenting on Peiperl’s show at PAFA, said:

“A poster with a large Opish globe ranging from orange to yellow against black has been designed for the show in an edition of 10,000 by Kramer, Miller, Lombden and Glassman.  It also marks a new trend toward posters to accompany new shows at the Academy.”

PAFA poster

PAFA poster

 

This poster was published in 1970 by Poster Prints, Inc.  The attached promo sheets show the other posters published by Poster Prints at the same time.

Poster Prints promo sheet 2-1

Poster Prints promo sheet 1-1

British Embassy

Inscription on the back of photo of Adam Peiperl with Catherine Dove Freeman.

Chief Justice Warren Burger, Mrs. Burger, Adam Peiperl, and Catherine Dove Freeman (wife of British ambassador John Freeman) at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition, “Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth,” Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Inscription on the back of photo of Adam Peiperl with Catherine Dove Freeman.

Adam Peiperl and Catherine Dove Freeman, wife of British ambassador John Freeman, at a preview opening of the National Gallery’s exhibition, ‘Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth,’ Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 

This conversation resulted in a four-month loan of a Peiperl light sculpture to the British Embassy, reported in an article by writer Dorothy McCardle in the Washington Post on February 15, 1970 as follows:

“Sculpture in Light

In the downstairs entrance foyer of the British Embassy, there is a new, very modernistic work of art on loan.

It is a ‘sculpture in light,’ the work of Polish artist Adam Peiperl.  He calls it ‘Astralite.’ It came to the British Embassy from a show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.”

In a telephone conversation with the artist on February 9, 1969, Ivor (no last name available) at the British Embassy said that British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers, and others discussed the Astralite at the embassy.

 

Chief Justice Warren Burger, Mrs. Burger, Adam Peiperl, and Catherine Dove Freeman (wife of British ambassador John Freeman) at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition, "Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth," Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Chief Justice Warren Burger, Mrs. Burger, Adam Peiperl, and Catherine Dove Freeman (wife of British ambassador John Freeman) at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition, “Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth,” Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 

Letter from NASA

NASA letter

Shipping label from package in which the sculpture was sent to Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston.

NASA label

In October, 1990, Peiperl had a chance encounter with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on the steps of the East Building at the National Gallery of Art.  He later sent some items pertaining to his activities and received from her the letter below.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis letter

Peiperl applies to kaleidoscopes the polarization technique which he employs in his art.  The image reproduced below illustrates the above statement by Ms. Onassis regarding Peiperl’s kaleidoscope images.  This image was published in 1992 by Mayfield Publishing Co. (Mountain View, CA) on the cover of the college textbook “Adolescence” (first edition) by Nancy J. Cobb of California State University, Los Angeles.

Kal. for blog final-1

Three additional kaleidoscope images by Peiperl were subsequently published on the covers of the next three editions of this book.  His kaleidoscope images have also been published on the covers of books by Prentice Hall/Simon & Schuster and other publishers.  The image shown below was used in a mass mailout by Time-Life Book-of-the-Month Club, “One Spirit” in 1995.

Second kaleidoscope image

“Radicals and Conservatives” Exhibition at PAFA

Mark Hain letter

Mark Hain letter

Museum Boijmans – Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Room 38

Een eerbetoon aan Renilde Hammacher-Van den Brande (a tribute to Renilde Hammacher-Van den Brande), from 27 November 2013 to 23 February 2014.

An exhibition including works by Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Rene Magritte, Mark Rothko, and Adam Peiperl’s Astralite 85b – all purchased for the museum by curator and art historian Renilde Hammacher-Van den Brande, who in March 2013 reached the age of 100.  Exhibition reviewed in the magazine De Witte Raaf (The White Raven), Brussels, Jan-Feb 2014. Excerpt: En dan is er nog de merkwaardige futuristische Astralite 85b, een kinetisch lichtobject van Adam Peiperl (“And then there is the remarkable futuristic Astralite 85b, a kinetic light object by Adam Peiperl”)  (see photo of Astralite 85b below)

Adam Peiperl, Astralite 85b, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

Adam Peiperl, Astralite 85b, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

 

Adam Peiperl meets Rachel Lambert ("Bunny') Mellon at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition, "Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth," Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Adam Peiperl meets Rachel Lambert (“Bunny’) Mellon at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition, “Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth,” Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 

Adam Peiperl inviting Bunny Mellon (Mrs. Paul Mellon) to his concurrent solo show at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo by unidentified photographer at a preview opening of the "Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth" exhibition at National Gallery of Art, November 1, 1969.

Adam Peiperl inviting Bunny Mellon (Mrs. Paul Mellon) to his concurrent solo show at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo by unidentified photographer at a preview opening of the “Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth” exhibition at National Gallery of Art, November 1, 1969.

 

 

Adam Peiperl and Bunny Mellon discussing his light sculptures at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition of "Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth," Nov. 1, 1969. Adam Peiperl papers. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Adam Peiperl and Bunny Mellon discussing his light sculpture at a preview opening of the National Gallery of Art exhibition “Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth,” Nov. 1, 1969. Photo by unidentified photographer. Adam Peiperl papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

(see Sally Wilson’s article “Nothing should be noticed” in “The Boulevardiers”.)

Smithsonian invitation

Smithsonian

 

Smithsonian letter

Smithsonian letter

 

 

Explanatory

 

Explanatory hanging panel from Adam Peiperl’s solo exhibition Art and Physics at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology (1972-1973).

 

 INDIA

First Post is an Indian online magazine.  It has been featuring on a daily basis a video of Adam Peiperl’s Astralite 7, a kinetic light sculpture in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Click on the link below to view it.

First Post

 

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