Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Thomas understand...Art House Santa Fe:Santa Fe New Mexican

Art House seems to have broken gently upon the scene in Santa Fe since last year, when it moved into the spot on Delgado Street that was formerly occupied by Eight Modern. Little fanfare has accompanied the new venue’s premiere exhibit Luminous Flux, a show of digital art and new media. The venue, devoted to exhibits featuring works from the art collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma, is a homey, welcoming sort of gallery, like several you’ll find along nearby Canyon Road. It’s not particularly big, and in order to see a couple of the pieces in its current exhibition Luminous Flux 2.0, New and Historic Works From the Digital Art Frontier, visitors must thread their way through the kitchen. But the incongruity of the space and the works housed within it create their own kind of magic, and Luminous Flux 2.0 is full of surprises.
The Thomas have been collecting for several decades and philanthropy is part of their objective. Their Thoma Foundation lends artworks to other venues, provides grants to individual artists, and funds art initiatives. “We just feel like the arts is one of those mediums that can cross a lot of bridges and hopefully inspire people to do great things,” Carl Thoma told Pasatiempo. “Most everything we collect we’re going to give away. Who knows where these collections will all end up?”
Some of the earliest works on display were made in the 1960s by Desmond Paul Henry, the only artist in the show who is no longer living. The medium used for the drawings, which line the walls of a central hallway, seems basic — ballpoint pen and black India ink — but the drawings are the product of a machine: a World War II-era bomb-site plotting device, an analog computer modified by Henry to create skeletal, organic, intricate abstractions. Another early computer artist, Jean Pierre Hébert, was among the first artists to use computer algorithms to create drawings. His intricate works on paper, made on a drafting plotter, appear three-dimensional. Hébert, like several artists in the show, has a background in science and is a current artist-in-residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “In the ’60s, professors — which most of the artists would turn out to be — would write algorithms that then would drive inkjet printers to produce drawings,” Thoma said. “They were writing this code without a monitor to actually see what they were doing. You can imagine writing code and the only output you see is going to be three days later when it’s a finished drawing on a slow-moving plotter.”
Manfred Mohr’s P-777B is a more recent example of algorithm-based art, an abstract computer animation whose imagery is designed to never repeat. The exhibition contains two works by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Method Random 4 and Pulse IndexMethod Random 4 is an arrangement of five vertical bands composed of colored pixels. The pixels in each band decrease in size from left to right. It was produced using a flawed algorithm written in the ’60s that was intended for use in cryptography and was designed to produce random numbers. Lozano-Hemmer assigned colors to the code and the resulting image shows a chance alignment of the pixels. 
Pulse Index is an interactive installation, a much larger version of which was shown at SITE Santa Fe in the 2012 exhibit Time-Lapse. Like the pixels in Method Random 4Pulse Index is a grid of increasingly smaller images, in this case, of viewers’ fingerprints. Insert a finger into a small device that reads your pulse, and your fingerprint is recorded. The recorded image is added to the grid, which becomes an evolving, random portrait of the people who come into contact with the artwork. “I think kids, especially, find it motivating,” said Thoma. “You need something interactive that draws people in, to get them engaged with the art.”
Peter Sarkisian’s Ink Blot is an example of video sculpture. It’s an ingenious projection of a man who appears to be crawling out of a puddle of ink spilled from a bottle. He leaves a snaking trail of ink behind him as he crawls over the surface he’s projected onto: a real blotter and notepad arranged on a table. Alan Rath’s Electric Eyes, another sculptural work, is an unsettling object, consisting of a cylinder set with two small monitors that depict a pair of pleading, disembodied eyes — a human soul, perhaps, trapped or subsumed by technology.
Sabrina Schwandtner’s Camouflage II mimics the appearance of a patterned quilt; however, it’s made from strips of a film about the textile industry and an instructional film for children about shadow puppets. Her use of recycled materials recalls the use of salvaged fabrics in traditional quilting. The artist’s “film quilt” is backlit by an LED light-box. LED technology is also used in Jim Campbell’s Home Movies, Pause in which the artist, a former engineer in Silicon Valley, took old home movies shot on film and recreated them digitally. A grid of diodes hangs several inches from the wall, projecting a low-resolution version of the home movies, blurred deliberately to the point of near-dissolution. The viewer is left watching a tantalizingly familiar but obscure set of moving pictures. “You don’t need to see a lot of information to form an opinion,” Thoma said. “That’s the way we live our lives. You don’t need to see a lot of an image to know what’s there.”
Among the most compelling works in Luminous Flux 2.0 is Craig Dorety’s Offset Circles — Yellow Flowering Tree Against Blue Sky. The piece is a series of layered circular panels inset with LEDs that cause each circle to glow, as though from within, with its own light. The shifting colors and offset composition of the concentric circles is designed to mimic the effect of ocular hallucinations produced during migraine headaches. It’s a disorienting work with a hypnotizing effect that makes it difficult to pull your eyes away. 
Part of the problem with collecting works in new media is that it often requires monitors, hard drives, projectors, and other equipment in order to be seen, plus it draws a lot of power. “The maintenance to keep all this equipment working eats up a lot of time and that’s the downfall of it,” Thoma said. “This show is mostly pretty small pieces but we’ve got pieces so big they can really only be in a public facility. They’ll take up your whole living room.” 

The Thomas don’t just collect works in digital media but are also avid collectors of contemporary Japanese bamboo, Spanish colonial arts, and early 20th-century modernist works. But the focus of their contemporary collection is on Color Field, hard-edge, and Optical Art works, as well as pieces in new media — works that lie at the intersection of art and technology. “Our collection centers around art that takes a lot of thought before it gets produced,” Thoma said. “You can say that about all great art, but this work is a little bit more systematic in the sense that it has to be done precisely or it doesn’t work.” ◀

Peripheral Vision by Zabet Patterson-- an important contribution to art history...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mark Wilson being recognized for his brilliance..

Mark Wilson is one of the earliest to use computers & software to create art.
July 17, 2015
“The computer is irrelevant to the creation of these images.  The computer is central to the creation of these images.” 

Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson, a pioneer in the artistic use of computers and software, is quite happy to make this completely contradictory statement about his artistic practice.  He has been in totally immersed in the process of digital art making for 35 years.  

A good part of the problem has been the art world’s attitude towards computers. Thirty or forty years ago there was hostility towards art made with computers. That attitude still lingers, but today most artists make some use of computers in their work.  

Wilson’s use of the computer is primal in that he writes all his own software and that software is used to create his images.  

These recent works by Mark Wilson are reflections of the algorithmic nature of complex and visually rich images. Using the software he has written, these works combine both vibrant geometric patterns with precise and complex textures.  The computer, code, and an archival ink jet printer combine to make images that would be virtually impossible to create in any other way. The final image is the distillation of a generative process that creates multiple images. The artist edits these images and ultimately selects the strongest image which will then be printed. Wilson describes the process as a kind of algorithmic expressionism.   

While it would be difficult to create these images by hand, there is really nothing magical about using algorithms. It is simply a step by step procedure. The complexity of the algorithm could be emulated by hand, but the computer simplifies and expedites the process.  

Wilson embraced this methodology in the eighties and is content in their continued use. If he were marooned on a desert island, he would use pen and paper or paint and brushes. But, in the meantime, the possibilities and potential of writing software intrigue him. Also the technology of printing and printers continues to improve and expand.  

Wilson is one of the earliest artists to begin using computers and software to create his art. For the past thirty years his work has been shown nationally and internationally in many of the important exhibits of computer art. He participated in the “Computers and Art” exhibition at the IBM Gallery in New York, Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, and,  more recently, “Digital Pioneers” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Wilson's works are in numerous public, corporate, and private collections.

Born in Oregon in 1943, Mark Wilson attended Pomona College and the Yale School of Art, where he studied painting with Jack Tworkov and Al Held.  He lives in West Cornwall, Connecticut and Neskowin, Oregon.  

To view Mark Wilson's website: highly recommends the indepth interview by GEOFORM with Mark Wilson. It includes a number of superb examples of his work. However, if you have the opportunity to see Mark's work on exhbition, you will enjoy the depth, complexity and color achieved. 

FIRST ARTWORK ABOVE: “e88556” by Mark Wilson, archival ink jet print,

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Art Rogue Rhode Island 2013

OCTOBER 6, 2013

Digital Art (R)evolution at Dedee Shattuck Gallery 

On a high, after leaving Cade Tompkins’s space today, I drove out to Westport.  This latest exhibition at Dedee Shattuck’s space is getting a lot of Providence buzz, and for good reason, major involved parties are representative of RISD, Brown, and a sponsored gallery at the RISD Museum.  The most exciting thing though about this show is it’s strong female>male ratio.  
I hadn’t been to this gallery since August 2011.  It’s been awhile, but the building is still beautiful.  Upon entering, a photograph by Richard Rosenblum was the first thing that I really saw before the gallery assistant came down the stairs.  I asked about an exhibition list to which the response was no list, just this catalogue (which is very pretty and not for free, but I had to have it, so I suppose those logistics don’t really matter) I sighed a sad sigh, faked a smile, and continued to walk around the first space.  
Leslie Thornton Binocular Series: La Brea Tar Pits 2013
Leslie Thornton’s work is impossible to not notice in this show.  I added up all the work and made some math, and she makes up 25% of the exhibit.  Her contributions to digital art though are wonderful.  There are 10 works from her Binocular Series, which is part David Attenborough, part kaleidoscope, and part really fantastic.  I was really shocked as to how many kaleidoscopes were in the show in general.  Perhaps not so ironically, my mother has been obsessed with them for years.  The Binocular Seriescould be a P.E.T.A art historian’s dream.  You could discuss the obvious, animals.  Then you could touch on binoculars and poaching, or you could get really serious and talk about the ever-looming “gaze” and animal captivity and finish off with contrast between reality of natural beauty and fantasy and manipulation via the kaleidoscope.  Roberta Smith might not have been so wildly (ha) impressed two years ago, but I don’t think she really wanted to think to hard about it anyway.  
Anne Morgan Spalter Mt. Otemanu
Anne Morgan Spalter is the other female presence in the room.  Her interpretation of kaleidoscopes has a more mandala feel.  Their scale is what really makes them remarkable.  The one interpreted into a coffee table was my favorite because it was a perfect example of having digital art at home, without having to set up monitors everywhere. I hope no one sat on this at the opening.  
The curatorial collaboration between Michael Spalter and Isabel Mattia was a success as well.  It worked out to have the various artists, especially Thornton all over the gallery instead of sequestered to just one area.  When I got over to salon-styled wall, I was pleased at the flow but sad to see something that there was an exhibition list, before it was cut up, pinned to the wall.  Cue the Rolling Stones,  because after all I got what I needed when I bought the catalogue. 
I thought it was interesting to compare and contrast the work by the men and by the women in this show.  Most of the men are represented by images that provoke math, science, minimalism, and other left-brain leanings.  Despite this not really being a vast retrospective on digital art (because let’s face it MoMA would have added more contemporary men =/), the show really does aim to show digital art’s past, which ironically brought me back to that show Complexity (cruel irony, but brought me back in a way where I thought this older work would have supported his thesis in a cleaner way) I digress.  
It was ultimately worth the drive to see the show and I’m happy to have the catalogue.  The gallery assistant gave me the option of me sending her this piece for review before I went public with it.  The suggestion made me laugh.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Vera Molnar

Issue 170 April 2015 RSS

Vera Molnar 

Vera Molnar, Shall we take a walk? (detail), 1998/2015, black light, yarn, nails,
 dimensions variable
Some artistic movements, such as futurism, are baptized with manifestos and official rituals. Then there are those that are retrospectively named, either by art historians seeking to fill gaps, or by artists trying to reclaim a little fame. ‘Algorism’ is an example of the latter. Pioneers of computer-based
art in the late 1960s, algorists were coders who employed algorithms as tools for artistic production. They made works with punch cards, plotters and grid paper, wrote essays for art/science crossover journals like Leonardo, and joined groups that invariably had acronyms for names to make op art, kinetic sculptures or systems art.
Vera Molnar has been counted as one of Algorism’s patron saints since the movement was granted a history in the 1990s. A living pioneer of computer art, she began experimenting with numerically based art after moving from her native Hungary to Paris in the desolate postwar years of the late 1940s. There, she began performing manual calculations of iterative steps with an imaginary computer (her ‘machine imaginaire’) and creating minimal, patterned works that teeter on the edge of disruptive organicism. Molnar’s early work has been branded as visionary by algorist hagiographers, both for her attempts to discern the new aesthetic language that computational art would produce, and for her fundamental ambivalence (or indifference?) about the authorship of the work: was made by it the artist, the code or the computer itself?
Zürich’s Haus Konstruktiv, well known for its exhibitions of art concrète and, in particular, the work of Max Bill, is currently showing a major retrospective of Molnar’s work entitled ‘(Un)Ordnung. (Dés)Ordre.’ ([Dis]Order). The show consists mainly of plotter drawings, geometric abstraction, typographic collages, as well as sketches and studies for the same. The lineage is clear: Bill presciently curated Molnar’s work into a survey of art concrète at the Helmhaus in Zürich in 1960. The stylistic connection is also clear: Molnar’s art is constructivist to its abstract bones. Each shape, line and colour appears subjugated to a clear decision tree, and the manifest aesthetic quality of the work seems almost a surprise, even for the artist. In Molnar’s work, beauty is an unexpected but persistent property, a harmless kind of error that consistently re-emerges.
The art-historical agenda of the exhibition is a little less clear. The show’s publications breathlessly claim that when Molnar began making plotter drawings in 1968, she was a lone pioneer, the first to treat the computer as an artistic medium. This is humbug. By 1968, both London and Paris were already awash with technology-driven art exhibitions: Jasia Reichardt’s ‘Cybernetic Serendipity’ opened in London and Gordon Pask was building robot homages to Marcel Duchamp. Molnar’s work was very much of its time, part of an extended family that would include Bridget Riley and Manfred Mohr, and it’s a disservice to sever her so much from her context.
Perhaps the most compelling series of Molnar’s iterative works, ‘Hommage à Dürer’ (1948–92), is oddly biographical in the face of all its numerical coldness. In the background of Albrecht Dürer’s Melancholia woodcut of 1514, Molnar created a magic square, a grid of numbers in which every row and every column add up to the same sum. The rules are both generative and a kind of iron cage. Molnar used the magic square in Dürer’s allegory about science and sadness to provide the mathematical starting blocks for a series of topological tangles, one leading to the next, until the possibilities seem slowly exhausted. The work presents a path that turns into a labyrinth: Ariadne’s thread becomes a knot that can’t be untied. It’s impossible not to read this work as being about exile and the impossibility of return that was a constant melancholic theme in all the hyperactive cultural production of Molnar’s circle of Hungarian exiles.
Adam Jasper