Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, Saint Louis, Missouri
(clockwise from left: Josh Mosley - Iris prints, Lynn Lukkas - website,
Nick Kamuda - mixed media sculpture, Torben Giehler - paintings on paper,
Michael Rees - sculpture)
"TRANSPOLYBLU, the recent exhibition of digital works by more than 20 artists from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and St. Louis, explored possibilities inherent in extending the actual classification of digital works as well as works that are actually new media. Curated by Sabina Ott, with Ron Laboray, the roster of artists, much like the web itself, appears to be an exercise in the eradication of hierarchical distinctions.
A Chuck Close print and a Will Mentor video were shown alongside works by some lesser known artists, which even included a graduate student or two. Mary Ann Strandell's silver lenticular prints on sintra, 'Polyglot Pink;' 'Yellow;' 'Blue' (2001), have a charming kitsch quality that seem to combine abstract painting with the image-changing trinkets of Cracker Jack boxes. This democratic approach seems to underscrore a curatorial decision that digital imagery can have many relationships to the computer beyond merely work that is either created in the computer or somehow captured and then digitized. Many of the works describe a notion of digital imagery that is laden with more traditional assumptions of painting or printmaking.
Fabian Marcaccio's recent works have focused on challenging the delimiting factors inherent in traditional painting. In some instances, he has draped large canvases awkwardly and precariously around entire galleries, while in other works he has hung paintings from walls that stretch onto sculptural structures of metal tubing, nylon mesh, etc. Marcaccio's paintings appear to be enormous polymorphic gestural abstractions, and yet on closer inspection they reveal details taken from news images, advertising, and assorted popular iconography. With 'Micro-Representational Paintant Remix' (1999), Marcaccio carries the bravado of his monumental paintings into the digital realm. As the term 'paintant,' invented by Marcaccio, is meant to connote a combination of painting and mutation, this piece is a mixture of painting and digitized print. The signature gestures are included in small, garishly colored passages of silicone gel that seem to literally float off the surface. A twisting grid pattern dominates the canvas and serves as a formal device to frame digitized images of New York Police Department insignia, street scenes, and an ample amount of female breasts and asses, as well as assorted body parts. These details impart a consistent narrative and a prurience that is a reminder of the preponderance of porn web sites and the source where the images were apparently appropriated. Marcaccio has formulated a truly hybrid category, a melange linking web-based imagery, digital printing and painterly painting.
The conjoining of digital image and object is investigated in Richard Krueger's elegant constructions from the artist's 'Topothesia' series. Every element of these works has been thoughtfully integrated into a totality that suggests a reverent sanctified space. The quietude of setting and dim illumination is reminiscent of Christian Bolanski's evocative photographic installations. Krueger's five sculptural pieces were exhibited in a darkened gallery, each work was comprised of a photographically rendered and digitally altered image that had been transferred to photo-transparency film and then mounted in hand fabricated optical viewers, which in turn, echo the form of 19th-century handheld stereoscope viewers. The viewers are placed on red brocade and atop plinths bringing the images to eye level and suggesting an anthropomorphic votive. This intimate viewing is periodically disrupted as lamps above the viewers flash on and off requiring a continual visual readjustment, an experience equivalent to the constant feeding of coins into the light vendors of many Renaissance chapels. The image of 'Gentle Conquest' (1999) uses the triptych format to emphasize the art historical references. In the left panel, an 18th-century schooner glides in full sail across a parched desert, while on the right panel there is a rocket in the midst of ascent; each are placed within the elaborate frames of courtly miniature paintings. The central image of a haloed, nearly simian figure, flanked by a satellite in the background and lotus in the foreground, appears like a hulking Goya Titian, an impression belied by a gentle inquisitive facial expression. These elements of juxtaposition of image and technology exemplify the exhibition's intent.
Lynn Lukkas includes numerous systems of communication and attempts to critique simultaneity of attention with 'Occulus-Interactive' (2000). Lukkas' multi-dimensional works include video, sound, dance/performance, geographical coordinates, Morse code, and web links within an interactive environment. These pieces demonstrate the multiplicity of visual and aural activities inherent in cyber art. John Simon's work is an interesting hybrid of sculptural object with two-dimensional imagery that uses the computer's characteristic visual language. Simon's 'Color Panel v 1.0' (1999) is comprised of an Apple PowerBook 280c stripped of its housing and reconfigured as object/image with a continuously transforming grid. Elements of the panel are left exposed, producing a sculpted relief in contrast to the flatness of the computer screen. The resultant compositions create a constantly changing amalgam of modernist imagery within the high-tech field, in essence a ready-made as kinetic image."