Artwork Information

  • Title:

    Cosmic Energy

  • Artist:

    Reiback, Earl M.

  • Artist Bio:

    American, 1931–2006

  • Date:


  • Medium:

    Light bulb, acrylic screen, motor, wood

  • Dimensions:

    48 x 72 x 19 1/4 inches

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Museum purchase, Wichita Art Museum Members Foundation

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

In the mid-1960s Earl Reiback, a physicist and nuclear engineer who had decided to turn his science to aesthetic ends, began showing his inventions of light sculptures, screens called Lumias on which were projected choreographed programs of moving colored lights. Cosmic Energy exemplifies the mesmerizing affect of a Reiback Lumia. Varied strands or folds of light in clear translucent hues seem to float in space, the latter a measureless black void. The rhythm of movement is slow, stately, voluptuous, as color forms roll, stretch, expand, merge, diffuse, and disappear. Occasionally a color suddenly arises from “nowhere” and streaks through space like a comet or shooting star. The pattern of light movement, although programmed, appears to the viewer as eternally varied and transforming, tranquil and never repetitive.

Reiback’s Lumias, whose magical imagery pulls the spectator into a sensuous psychological embrace, synthesized some of the most important tenets of modernism. The projection of colored light on a flat screen creating a pattern that is perceived as moving freely in deep space overcomes the categorical boundaries of painting and sculpture, just as it challenges the reliability of perception, and asserts the relativity of truth. Moreover, the Lumias hark back to the inception of modernism in its theories of the equation of visual form, particularly the manipulation of pure color in patterns of movement, interval, gesture, and intensity with the abstract emotive power of music.

Cosmic Energy, like all Reiback’s Lumias, also addressed the issues central to the mid-20th century American vanguard movement of abstract expressionism, that is, the primacy of a subjective inner experience over didactic representation, the incorporation of accident or chance into the making of the image; the conception of the image as a stage for action rather than a window onto a fixed view of the external world; and the appreciation of art as an experience rather than a finite objective possession.

Earl Reiback delighted in being a participant in the machine age and in being able to use modern technology to create what was essentially a mind game, a psychological experience of beauty. Lingering in front of Cosmic Energy, as most visitors are compelled to do, one’s attention recedes inward to a secret place of quiet harmony.