Whitehot Magazine

Fred Eversley’s Ethereal Kinetic Parabolas at David Kordansky Gallery

Installation view, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles: Fred Eversley: Recent Sculpture, March 20 - May 1, 2021. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Fred Eversley: Recent Sculptures

David Kordansky Gallery

March 20 through May 1, 2021 

By LITA BARRIE, April 2021

Fred Eversley is an artist who defies categorization: an aerospace engineer turned sculptor who creates art with the intellect of a scientist, the inventiveness of an engineer and the perception of an artist. He turns invisible energies around us into visible beauty we can see ourselves within, as elements of that art. Eversley’s lifelong obsession with the energy of light began when he was 13 and read that the parabola first postulated by Isaac Newton is the only shape that concentrates all forms of energy into a single focal point. Since then, Eversley has dedicated his life to exploring the energy of light, which places him in the lineage of the most brilliant minds in physics, philosophy, poetry and art. After Einstein made his discovery that light is “the quintessence of the universe,” he said, “for the rest of my life I want to reflect on what light is.” Eversley has more affinity with the history of expansive minds who are obsessed with light than myopic art cliques and is more likely to read about solar eclipses and black holes than what is trending in the art world. 

As the son of an engineer and the grandson of a photographer who also loved electronics, Eversley already had an amateur radio communications license when he was seven. As a young teenager, he experimented with creating various parabolic forms—first with spinning a pan of water around a vertical  axis on an old phonograph turntable. When he later became an artist, he remembered these teenage experiments and replicated the same process using plastic—and it created a perfect parabolic form.  

Eversley’s iconic parabolas have mesmerized a broad audience for over 50 years, and are receiving renewed interest today from both the worlds of art and science. Eversley understands the quantum physics behind making kinetic sculptures that come to life in our subjective experience. Moving around these finite works completes the aesthetic equation that creates refracted light - which is infinite, like light itself. In Recent Sculptures at David Kordansky Gallery, viewers can see reflections of themselves and the other sculptures in the gallery through the parabolic lenses. Instagram is flooded with images of enthusiastic viewers taking selfies of their reflections inside these parabolic lenses which gives these interactive works a further life.  

Fred Eversley, Untitled (parabolic lens), (1969) 2020. 3-layer, 3-color cast polyester, 19 1/8 x 19 1/8 x 5 3/8 in. Photography: Jeff McLane. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

As Eversley explains, the parabolic shape is “a concentration of visual energy to create an object of contemplation that transcends everything—black, white, old, young, educated, non-educated—because people can react, no matter what their background.” As the only artist of color in the West Coast Light and Space movement, Eversley has never been interested in making political art, because he is focused on creating a transcendent experience. He is also the only artist to explore the kinetic possibilities of the parabolic form - which is mainly used for telescope reflectors made from ground glass.  As natural light interacts with Eversley’s cast resin lenses, the sharp surface edge refracts it like a prism and the curved layers of color come into view in a shifting experience of color that changes from different viewing angles.  

In the 1970s, Eversley used the same three colors— violet, amber and blue— for his transparent pieces. He also made opaque pieces using white and black sometimes mixed together to create gray. Now he has expanded his color palette by incorporating cyan, magenta and yellow in different combinations and densities which can change from opacity to complete transparency. He only recently began experimenting with other colors and pearlescent powders to create more luminous surfaces. Eversley’s work is not brand art because it is handmade, not prefabricated, with tools he invented and each parabola has different chromatic effects created from his labor-intensive polishing technique.

Eversley’s trajectory as an artist is unique, and this has allowed him to communicate the wonder of his explorations of light, to a wider audience. He did not study art history or attend art school; rather, he went to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) where he studied electrical engineering. When he moved to Venice in 1964, he was a senior project engineer supervising design and construction of high-intensity acoustic and vibration test laboratories at NASA facilities. He became friends with artists John McCracken, Larry Bell and Ed Moses before he became an artist and as the first technologist of the A.R.C.( the Aesthetic Research Center) he started to collaborate with some of the artists.  After a car accident which left him disabled on crutches for a year, he began to explore making art himself using polyester resins. It was during this time, in early 1969, that his friend John Altoon died and his widow gave Eversley his studio, designed by Frank Gehry. He had shared a studio with Charlie Mattox making tiny works when Robert Rauschenberg encouraged him to forget LA and go to New York to find a gallery. 

Fred Eversley, Untitled (parabolic lens), (1974) 2020, cast polyester, 19 1/2 x 19 1/2 x 6 3/8 in. Photography: Jeff McLane. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. 

With nothing to lose and a lot of chutzpah, Eversley hit the streets of New York with an attaché case of little sculptures and began approaching gallerists in early 1970. Serendipitously, he met his old friend Marcia Tucker, who offered him a one man show at the Whitney Museum of American Art.  After securing a second solo show at Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago, he returned to California and was soon invited to be in an important group show at Pace Gallery, A Decade of California Color ( 1970),  a solo show at OK Harris Gallery in NY and another show at the Jack Glen Gallery in Corona del Mar.

Eversley went from being an unknown artist to a known artist, almost overnight and his good fortune continued: in 1977, Eversley became the first artist-in-residence at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. He also received large commissions: an eight-foot in diameter polyester sculpture in the lobby of Lenox Square in Atlanta in 1971, followed by a monumental 40-foot tall stainless steel, double element vertical parabola in 1977 at the entrance to the Miami Airport.

Eversley turns 80 years old this year, but he continues to make art with ageless vigor because he is still lit up by a love of discovery. He says, “if there are metaphysical energies, it is only reasonable to assume they obey the same laws as physics.” Eversley’s parabolic lenses are an aesthetic parallel to Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of the transcendental sublime because they bridge the material and the immaterial, the finite and the infinite, and the visible and the invisible—much like the invisible noumena beyond our subjective experience of the visible  phenomena in our sensory reality. Therein lies their magic of sublime wonderment. Eversley insists that he “ still emphatically concurs” with poet, William Blake:

                      Energy is the only life and its from 

                         the body:

                                and reason is the bound or 

                          outward circumference of Energy.

                                  Energy is Eternal Delight. 

Lita Barrie

Lita Barrie is a freelance art critic based in Los Angeles. Her writing appears in Hyperallergic, Riot Material, Apricota Journal, Painter’s Table, ArtnowLA, HuffPost, Painter’s Table, Artweek.L.A, art ltd and Art Agenda. In the 90s Barrie wrote for Artspace, Art Issues, Artweek, Visions andVernacular. She was born in New Zealand where she wrote a weekly newspaper art column for the New Zealand National Business Review and contributed to The Listener, Art New Zealand, AGMANZ, ANTIC, Sites and Landfall. She also conducted live interviews with artists for Radio New Zealand’s Access Radio. Barrie has written numerous essays for art gallery and museum catalogs including: Barbara Kruger (National Art Gallery New Zealand) and Roland Reiss ( Cal State University Fullerton). Barrie taught aesthetic philosophy at Claremont Graduate University, Art Center and Otis School of Art and Design. In New Zealand, Barrie was awarded three Queen Elizabeth 11 Arts Council grants and a Harkness grant for art criticism. Her feminist interventions are discussed in The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand and an archive of her writing is held in The New Zealand National Library, Te Puna Matauranga Aotearoa.

view all articles from this author