Peter Van Riper was an artist/musician right from the start. For more than 30 years, Van Riper brought together the technology of laser photography, the science of sound and light, and an aesthetic philosophy derived from the non-Western traditions of Indonesia and Japan. Starting in the 1960s, he made sound and light environments and was a pioneer in bringing laser technology to the art world. Van Riper received recognition for a collaborative work, Sound Light, & Air, made for the first exhibition of laser art and holography at the Cranbrook Museum of Art, Michigan, in 1968.
Van Riper’s laser photographs show his concern with drawing attention to the natural continuum between the very large and the very small. Van Riper’s images evoke visual analogies to underwater and galactic space, or looking into a microscope or a telescope. The photographs reveal light wave rhythms and interference patterns produced by illuminating objects with laser light and exposing film directly, without a lens or a camera. The resulting images present multiple aspects of this “direct contact” with nature.
In performance, Van Riper combined projected laser-generated images and music on invented acoustic metal instruments to present a multi-dimensional environment of sound and light waves. Cut aluminum baseball bats, metal bars, and rings were played like bells and gamelan instruments, producing sound fields, standing waves, and fresh overtones that pervaded the space.
Beginning in the 1970s, Van Riper toured nationally and internationally with solo and collaborative performances and exhibitions, including a six-city performance/exhibition tour of Japan, a British Isles tour, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Lucio Amelio Gallery, Napoli, Italy. Selected exhibitions and performances include: Space Festival, Otranto, Italy, 1998, In the Heart of Things, with Eugènia Balcells, Tinglado, Tarragona, 1998, Mestizo, Murcia, 1997, Angelic Waves, Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, 1996, Tartessos, Barcelona, 1996 and 1993, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid with Eugenia Balcells, 1995, Nonsequitur Music Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1994, New York Hall of Science, 1990, and Penine Hart Gallery, New York, 1989.
Van Riper’s music includes: Music for Spaces, 1997, Healing Music, 1997, 50 Sounds Running, 1996, Windows to the Sky/Sustainable Music, 1995, Acoustic Metal Music, 1994, Direct Contact, 1994, I AM I AM I AM I AM I, 1986, Paper Piece, 1984, Indian Circle, 1981, Room Space, 1980, and Sound to Movement, 1979. His music can be heard on CD anthologies: CD Connection, 1996, Aerial IV, 1991-1994.
Van Riper received a BA in Far Eastern history and Western art history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He completed postgraduate work in the arts at Tokyo University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Van Riper was a member of the conceptual art movement, Fluxus. He taught graphics, laser holography, and conceptual performance at the California Institute of the Arts from 1970-1973. In addition to his own art and music, Van Riper collaborated with dancer Simone Forti, visual artist Eugenia Balcells, and performance artist Sha Sha Higby.