Star-News Art

Charles Dockum's 'Light Show'
Unlike Anything Offered Before

Star-News Art Critic

Pure colors - in an infinite variety of values and mixtures - explode, merge, advance and recede, among other dynamic movements, in any number of shapes and forms on a screen at Dockum Research Laboratory [address removed] in Altadena. And this is no ordinary "light show" such as those that have become commonplace in recent years. On the contrary, a new concept of visual art is being explored by artist-inventor Charles Dockum. His idea involves the development of visual symphonies, sonatas, concertos, fugues, and the like, with color rather than with sound as is the case with musical compositions. And, as in musical compositions, Dockum's color compositions are built around logical thematic structures - including such elements as rhythm, harmony, movement, and a climax. But all of this is done with color and light. There is no sound or accompanying music - nor are they necessary in light of the aesthetic quality of his visual compositions. As is the case with other forms of visual art, sound is no more necessary here than visual affects are needed with good music.

Charles Dockum refers to his art as "Mobilcolor" - an art form that makes use of electro-mechanically controlled equipment to project moving non-objective, color patterns on a screen. Control over the patterns makes them appear to live, grow, and change in space in a strong three-dimensional sense. "The process," he points out, "is not cinematographic, nor is it concerned with photography. Rather, it makes use of light, color, and movement according to their own inherent qualities."

As a result of his system for controlling form, color, and movement simply but with great freedom and flexibility, compositions can be developed, timed, and edited in coordination with what appears on the projection screen. Of course, permanent recordings of such compositions can be made and played later by anyone else - with their own feeling for, and interpretation of the work - as is ordinarily done with the work of composers of music. Moreover, the equipment can be played spontaneously without reference to a previously developed composition. Thus the equipment will project a visual symphony as it was originally composed, or a player or a group of players might control one or more projection units and improvise by manually changing the intensity of the illumination, by adjusting the axes of projected film, or by manipulating lenses. By these means a player or a group might also perform a composition under the direction of a leader as is done in conventional orchestras.

Unlike other forms of visual art, such as painting, the "Mobilcolor" compositions function in time - as actual movement.