Energy, distilled to its essence is power, or more specifically, the capacity of power. One of the quintessential expressions of energy is Newton’s experimentation with light focused through a prism to create a rainbow of color.
At Art Basel Miami Beach, which opens today to VIP guests and runs through Sunday, New York’s Nicola Vassell Gallery will present a two-person booth featuring the work of artists Fred Eversley and Alteronce Gumby. Titled “Color Vaults,” the presentation will look at the two artists’ shared affinity for space. For the art fair, viewers will see how Eversley and Gumby are kindred spirits engaging in an intergenerational dialogue that explores the way each artist renders the concept of energy through their distinct use of light and color.
“Alteronce and Fred are two brilliant artists, a generation apart, whose ideas about energy and the cosmos make them uniquely suited to mutual engagement,” said Nicola Vassell, the gallery’s founder.
Known for leveraging his aerospace career into art-making, Eversley creates highly polished parabolic sculptures that captivate viewers through their kinetic permutations of shape and color. The transformative properties of color played a critical role in the work that Eversley created in his New York studio for “Color Vaults.” The 80-year-old artist spent the pandemic’s initial lockdown in his New York studio, separated from his production equipment and most importantly his primary color sources in L.A.’s Venice neighborhood.
Through the use of new pigments he procured while in New York, Eversley experimented with new combinations of color and processes that expanded his vocabulary. “You end up with an infinite variety of possibilities different than I ever did before,” Eversley said in a recent Zoom interview with Gumby. “I’m still experimenting with them. I’ll probably run out of life before I run out of possibilities.”
The properties of the parabola and its “U” shaped, conical design captured the imagination of Eversley at a young age. After reading an article in a science journal about the process of rotating a liquid on a vertical axis to create a perfect parabola, he proceeded to conduct his own experiments using a photographic turntable and Jell-O until he created his own parabolic lens. That curiosity led him to pursue a career in engineering, beginning in the mid-1960s, when he moved to Los Angeles. He found work at Wyle Laboratories, which was contracted by NASA to build energy testing laboratories for the agency’s Gemini and Apollo missions.
After a debilitating injury sustained in a car accident, Eversley convalesced in Venice, home to a cadre of artists that included Charles Maddox, Ed Moses, Larry Bell, John McCracken and John Altoon. During this time he began experimenting with materials and physics, designing resin molds to create a parabolic shape that Eversley described as “the only shape known to man that is the perfect concentrator of all forms of energy.”
Gumby’s introduction to art came when he was 19, while an architecture student studying abroad in Barcelona. A visit to the city’s Picasso Museum, filled with works that represented the broad spectrum of his career from childhood drawings to ceramics, ignited his interest. Though Gumby initially took up figurative drawing which then evolved into De Kooning–influenced abstraction, a chance encounter with shimmering shattered glass at a broken bus stop pavilion changed the trajectory of his practice. He began to incorporate painted broken glass into his work, experimenting with the idea of deconstruction and reconstruction as expressions of energy.
“All matter that exists already exists—it’s just destroyed and reformed into another form of matter,” he said. His abstractions soon transformed into cosmic landscapes, created on shaped canvases. He assembles these crystallized topographies from shards of painted glass, raw lapis, red jasper, and other crystals that create a mirrored effect that reflects the surrounding environment. His paintings are further transformed by the light in the space where they are shown, and as the viewer walks around the paintings, the iridescent colors and reflections shift, evoking the sensation of being in a luminous halo of stardust.
For his contribution to “Color Vaults,” Gumby will present news landscapes that are an expression of energy between the sun and the cosmos; he forms the painted glass shards into mosaic patterns that resemble constellations of stars within a galaxy—constellations of gemstones thoughtfully placed throughout the painting add a textural element that encourages the viewer to experience the paintings from various angles. The shapes of his paintings are often squares or two rectangles placed together to give the appearance of tectonic plates shifting apart.
During their Zoom conversation, Gumby asked Eversley about the difference between engineering accidents and artistic ones. The stories behind their process and their work elucidate the valuable role chance plays in their growth and development. “As an engineer you get into accidents also—good accidents” Eversley said. To which Gumby emphatically replied, “That’s what I call painting too.”
Their respective commitment to the core themes of their work while embracing experimentation with material and process has led to an evolutionary process that yielded numerous discoveries that prompt further inquiry. “Each piece is essentially a surprise,” Eversley said. “Each piece is its own animal.”