One afternoon during the year 1921, I was walking down a street in San Diego, California. I suddenly saw the edge of a young man's face, a nose. I called out to the owner of the profile, "Karl, remember that I drew your portrait in 1915, when we were children in school?" "Of course, I remember, Alfred," he answered, "and I still keep the portrait as a remembrance of our school days. That was 6000 miles away and six years ago, in Horsholm, Denmark."
The edge of things, a profile, coupled with a past event, has always made me leap like an inspired diver off a board.
Edge events have occupied me for years - the edge of color as it is observed in a prism. Goethe wrote in Beitrage zur Optik, 1791, paragraph 33:
The prism as an instrument, was looked upon with submissive awe and humility in the Eastern lands; so that the Chinese emperor gave himself the right to be the unique owner, as he insisted, by divine right of Majesty, to behold these beautiful appearances for himself alone. We in all ages from youth to old age look with wonder on the prismatic instrument because upon its use depends most of the color theories: therefore, to begin the study of color we must concentrate on this object.
While the study of Goethe's color theory has engaged me over a twenty-year period, it is in the past three years that I returned to it, as well as new readings in contemporary physics and electro-magnetism and constructed the prism machine.
The Prism Machine
As a space pilot approaches earth from outer darkness, a blue luminous atmosphere meets his eyes. The cool color hues are stalled in the proton-filled outer shell, not able to penetrate inward to the surface of the earth. Instead the protons create an electro-magnetic field. Areas around the turning globe oscillate until the protons are absorbed by the negative south polarity.
When the earth's night shadow dominates its own atmosphere, the electrons in the electric field produce the hot color hues. The atmosphere turns from blue to orange.
The dark of the universe and the light of the sun are both sources of energy.
In exploring the prism a similar phenomenon takes place.
A total prism is a circular unit of 360°. This unit is split in two half circles, each 180°. One part is the black prism, the other part is the white prism.
On a large piece of window glass, I glued twenty-two prisms on both sides, creating a prism sandwich. This made an opposition of eleven black and eleven white prisms.
I placed the prism machine facing a north skylight through which came the reflected light of the sun and the dark dome of the universe.
I looked at the prism machine through another prism, held in front of my eyes. The color hues appeared: black traveling towards the white showed the blue or cool color hues, the protons .: - . White traveling towards black showed orange or the hot color hues, the electrons The dark spectrum hues are six and the light spectrum hues are six, to be seen in the paintings and diagrams of 1975-1977.
The ancient Chinese labeled Heavenly 1-3-5-7-9, the odd numbers, and designated Earthly 2-4-6-8-10, the even numbers. in my two diagrams of 1977, 1 express the dark prism's six spectral color hues as the placement for areas 0-1-3-5-7-9, brought to a completion of twenty, with the aid of a reversed area placement of 0- 19-17-15-13-11. The result is a balanced computation of 5 x 20 = 100.
I harmonize the white prism's six spectral color hues by the use of 10 twice. I build by 0-2-4-6-8-10, and place in the reverse area the number sequence 0-18-16-14-12-10. I arrive at an even number composition of 5 x 20 = 100.
Thus, I demonstrate a unifying method characteristic of the vigesimal system first created by the ancient people of China and the Maya.
Modern number abstractions have not meant much to me, nor have mystical associations of number. Ancient calendar systems, the edge of the sun reappearing, have been a source of my concrete and symbolic number structures. I follow Pythagoras, who said, "Let the true principle be known, the beginning is the half of the whole."
My use of numbers is governed by the duality and opposition of odd and even number structures.
Besides, I am still attentive to the revelations of the four comer edges of a square and the rectangular picture plane.
The edges of invisible shapes at the threshold of my awareness - the monuments and objects left by the ancient people, for example, are all in my mind together with an education in modern art in Germany, France, and the United States. What to make of it, but an allegory, in a new pictorial structure.
In a school story about his family, six-year old Peter wrote, "My father is strong and good because he paints solar energy."