Al­go­rithm and hues

Dig­i­tal works at Art House

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Michael Abatemarco The 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 artistin-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 In­dex. Method 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 4, Pulse 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 light­box. 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.”

Desmond Paul Henry: 058-2-64, 1964; bot­tom, Jean-Pierre Hébert: Spi­ral Di­la­tion, 1988, China ink on HP draft­ing pa­per; draw­ing ma­chine, white In­dia ink on black car­tridge pa­per and hand-em­bel­lished white-and-black In­dia-ink high­light­ing; op­po­site page, top, Craig Dorety: Off­set Cir­cles – Yel­low Flow­er­ing Tree Against Blue Sky, 2014; LEDs, cus­tom elec­tron­ics, and Alu­panel; bot­tom, Jim Camp­bell: Home Movies, Pause, 2014, LEDs, me­tal, wire, and cus­tom elec­tron­ics

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