Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Technology Becomes Them – Curatorial statement

Technology Becomes Them, on view in the Mikhail Zakin Gallery October 30 – November 21, 2015

Welcome to the neo-human era of art, on view in the Mikhail Zakin Gallery. For many, the latest suite of smart phones changes the way culture is experienced and remembered. Each artist in Technology Becomes Them creates work on a new aesthetic path where technology and humanity meet. The contemporary artists in this show employ traditional techniques and forms to explore the new fabric of reality, woven with ubiquitous technology and ever present internet communication.

Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern, Tech Cherubs (Pink Rust),
Silkscreen, 24x18", 2014, $250 
Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern creates hand-pulled prints reminiscent of Baroque wallpaper. Her contemporary color play and close cropped compositions are the first aesthetic vehicles grounding her work in contemporary visual vocabulary. Curious viewers are rewarded to discover the hidden gestures of cherubs and courtly personages and the banality of their focus: the figures are lost in their smartphones, tablets and laptops. While the figures refer vaguely to a distant time and place, the collision with technology reflects our own inane present-day obsessions.

Michael Burris Johnson mediates painterly observations of nature using the grid. The white rose bush in Patience is simplified into millions of tiny squares. While the imposed structure alienates the viewer from nature, this process also alleviates the strain of mimesis. The juxtaposed colors create a unity of lightly contrasting squares of color data. Standing in front of the work, the viewer is struck first by Johnson’s technique, and next by their own instinct to interpret beauty from a patchwork of color.

Michael Burris Johnson, "Patience", Oil on canvas, 42x84", 2015. Archival prints available for $80
Pat Lay, "54AAA0254C,"
Collaged digital scroll, inkjet 
printed on Japanese kozo paper, 
Tyvek backing, gold paint, 96x48",
2015, $6,500

Pat Lay refers to patterned works in art history and draws out the beauty of the computer matrix. Rather than mediating our experience, computer technology becomes the experience itself. The large scale of Lay’s collaged digital scrolls KB54AAA0468B and 54AAA0254C impose veneration while the pattern and shimmering color transfix the viewer. The paradoxical impression is one of aesthetic beauty and unknown strength- this could crush us while we are busy admiring it. The sculpted ceramic heads or “post-human power figures” combine fired clay and computer parts that stand eye to eye with the viewer. The implied functions and super human strength can be intimidating or comforting, depending on how far into the future you are willing to stare.

Judy Malloy, a pioneer hypertext poet from the early days of computing, has devised a series of phrases or lexias that comprise a poem. In Paths of Memory and Painting, the viewer is asked to navigate the poem by clicking the lexia that attracts them. An ethereal narrative emerges based on individual decision. The resulting form reflects the viewer’s desire for a certain path. The act of reading poetry and choosing what portion comes next alters the traditional form and a feeling of intimacy emerges between the viewer and the computer. We may be familiar with hypertext links on the internet that bounce us from one article to the next, but to do so for the purpose of art is a new experience.

Judy Malloy, "Paths of Memory and Painting," Hypertext literature, DHTML, 2010

In each case, the artist is revealing something beautiful yet foreboding, reminding us that the consequences of technology are only partially known to us. What will become of the world that does not fit on a screen? Will we always have the ability to love and share it IRL? In an age where any idea worth sharing comes with a pre-fab hashtag, I invite you to take a look around the gallery and admire the work of these four contemporary artists. Meanwhile, reflect on a question; if an exhibition doesn’t Instagram well, is it worth sharing? #TechnologyBecomesThem

-         Mary Gagler, Curator

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