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Art and technology in Kensington

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March 12, 2010   ·   4 Comments

Brad Troemel, Pre-career Retrospective at Extra Extra Gallery. Installation view

Much of the work around the Kensington area this month questions the divide between technology and artist. First up is the Brad Troemel Pre-career Retrospective at Extra Extra Gallery. The gallery directors curated the show entirely from Troemel’s website selecting images of work, installations, and videos and installing the show without consulting the artist in the process. On the Extra Extra website they explain: “This gesture of presenting work without the consent of the creator is emblematic of immaterial art’s free movement into any receptive home.”

Potato plus bandaid features in Brad Troemel, Pre-career Retrospective at Extra Extra Gallery. Untitled, 2009

Brad Troemel, Pre-career Retrospective at Extra Extra Gallery. Installation view

The selected works were printed out on plain copy paper with no worries about archival materials—the prints are not meant to last. The works themselves seem to be a tribute to ephemera—documentation of the meaningless, or accidental, or silly. A photo of a tree branch rolled up in a car window is listed as an installation as though any action in life could be a performance and every object, a sculpture. A potato held to a wall with band-aids, a sandwich on a bedpost, a piñata on fire; the images are all roughly the same size and are distributed around three walls of the gallery in a grid with none given precedence and in no particular order. All of life aggregated through technology into an endless series of unnoticed art blobs. The show is captivating and witty, getting funnier the longer you look.

George Shinn, New, Renew & Rerun at Highwire Gallery. Shard of Purple Shadows Fall on Horatio’s Face (detail)

The paintings in George Shinn’s New, Renew & Rerun show at Highwire Gallery took the reverse path. While Troemel starts in reality and moves to the digital; Shinn starts with a digital process in order to create something almost primitive. Shinn draws using Mac Paint and then transfers the designs to canvas and paints the images the old-fashioned way. The resulting pictures of faces and groups have a blocky style that echoes Northwest Coast Native American design. Heavy shadows and outlines on the faces stand out against empty backgrounds with decorative patterning—the faces become reminiscent of cartoons or primitive masks with the pixilation of digital design still visible in some of the figures.

Chad Curtis, Drawing Machine at InLiquid Art + Design

At InLiquid Art + Design Chad Curtis’ Drawing Machine continues the dialogue between technology and art. It is a computer-driven mechanical armature that draws pictures reminiscent of some ornithological paint-by-numbers series. The nature scenes and Audubon-style illustrations of birds appear with perfect regularity as the pen glides on its pre-planned flight path. But the products seem a little soulless, waiting for the weekend painter to come and fill it in with color.

Andree-Anne Dupuis-Bourret, Medium Resistance at The Ice Box. La Debacle, Installation view

The Ice Box’s large group show of print works: Medium Resistance promises a continuation of this inquiry into the possibilities inherent in developing media: “these works reassess the mediums’ expressive, communicative, and material possibilities … strategically exploring each format’s relative autonomy and usefulness, its potential for participation and collaboration, communication and dissemination, aesthetic, social, and technical labor.” But this broad and confusing introduction leads in to a show that is relatively conventional.

While the work is solid, the format is very traditional with many 2-D prints hugging the walls and rarely venturing out into the center of the room. The standout exception is Andree-Anne Dupuis-Bourret’s La Debacle a landscape that spreads across the floor like a mini-mountain range of perfectly regular hills. Standing above the tiny peaks—softly shaded from mostly white to nearly black—it is easy to have a sense of vertigo as if entering upon a science fiction landscape sprung up from the pages of a hand-printed volume.

Piper Shepard, Medium Resistance at The Ice Box. Pattern Pinning

Other enjoyable pieces include Piper Shepard’s Pattern Pinning an 8’ x 8’ installation of corsage pins and printed floral borders that blend visually into a virtual quilt.

Piper Shepard, Medium Resistance at The Ice Box. Pattern Pinning (detail)

Colette Fu’s oversize photography pop-up books are captivating with their odd blend of subject, content and juvenile format. Over all there are many strong pieces and interesting installations, but the show lacks coherence, possibly as a result of its somewhat overwrought mission. Despite the claim to question material possibilities and the new potential for communication the show is particularly lacking in work that addresses the effects of new technologies or crosses any as yet untraversed boundaries.

More about this post’s author, S. Tiernan Alexander

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4 Responses to “Art and technology in Kensington”

  1. Great post! Some adventurous work here.

  2. Tiernan, your insights are relevant and incisive, and your reactions to the artworks in question shed light on the power of art to evoke an emotional as well as an intellectual response. You bring up interesting questions too, about the role of spirituality in art-making when you deem something “soulless” and whether the pursuit of breaking new ground is an urgent part of practice when you mention that a body of work did not cross any “untraversed boundaries.” I’ll look forward to your next reviews.

  3. Jennifer Newman says:

    Totally love this review Tiernan! I would love to see the first installation you were discussing of the work printed on regular printer paper. Sounds great! I also totally love the pin art, what an incredible concept and how time consuming. Your article was great… can’t wait to read more from you!

  4. Suzanne Hawthorne says:

    Wow. I learned more about art today while reading Tiernan’s incisive review of the current Kensington galleries’ offerings. Looking at art is one thing, but there’s much more to art than the ‘look’. There’s also the ‘feel’ and the ‘excitement’ or lack thereof.

    Looking forward to more of Tiernan’s reviews.

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