Weekly Update — The eyes have it in Vitreous at Klein Art Gallery

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This week’s Weekly has my review of The Vitreous: Of Eyes and Optics at Klein Art Gallery. Below is the copy with some pictures.  More photos at flickr.

Esther M. Klein Gallery, situated in the University City Science Center, has a mission to merge art, engineering and science while serving the public. Its latest exhibit, “The Vitreous: Of Eyes & Optics,” hits the mark. The national juried show of 22 artists is a jaunty group exhibition with interactive art, optical trickery and many pieces that get you thinking about the slippery nature of sight. The show is homey enough for the average viewer and challenging enough for those who demand the deepest concepts in their art.

Cynthia Greig, Representation no. 65 (Fan)
Cynthia Greig, Representation no. 65 (Fan)

Vitreous is not afraid to be fun.  But the robotics, spinning disks and video interactive pieces go well beyond the arcade and propel thoughts about social issues like the place of robotics in our lives; the ubiquity of surveillance cameras; and the fact that regardless of what is before you, your eye and mind will see things one way and I may see things another.

No piece made me doubt my eyes more than Cynthia Greig‘s C-print, Representation no.65 (fan).  The photo of a simple white electric fan shot in a white space is so mundane you might not stop to contemplate.  Look closer and you see that there is something faux about the fan you can’t quite figure out. It looks flat and like a cardboard cutout.  Maybe the artist constructed a faux fan and photographed it, a la Thomas Demand, the German artist who builds trompe l’oeil sculptural constructions then photographs them.  But no.  What Greig does is simpler.  She takes a real object (a fan, a portable television) and paints it white, then she draws the edges and details on the object with a pencil and takes a photograph.  What results is a hybrid — a photo of a sculpture that is also a drawing. The work is lovely and makes you consider the humble fan anew.

David Bowen's interactive Infrared Drawing Device
David Bowen's interactive Infrared Drawing Device

David Bowen’s Infrared Drawing Device is a small wall-mounted robot attached to a piece of paper on the wall.  The robot is mildly interesting when at rest. But wave a hand near the motion sensors and the piece jolts to life and its robotic arm makes a skittery charcoal line across the paper.  Move your hand gently and get a gentle response from the robot; move your hand fast and cause the robot to buck and seize.  You are Dr. Frankenstein and you have responsibility over this techno-creature.

Sean Hovendick, Peep Show, a surveillance video kaleidescope
Sean Hovendick, Peep Show, a surveillance video kaleidescope

In Sean Hovendick’s Peep Show, on the other hand, you are the victim as your image is caught by a camera embedded in the wall and broadcast — fragmented in a color video kaleidoscope — on a monitor above.  Whether you want to participate or not you are part of this surveillance-art piece.

Candace Karch, Le Petit Diablo
Candace Karch, Le Petit Diablo

Nearby, Candace Karch’s shiny x-ray images — decorated with pastel tattoo-like markings — are tribal and medical and great; and Lee Arnold’s flash animation of color fields embedded in black and white photos is mesmerizing.

Lee Arnold, Stadium, part of his video collage
Lee Arnold, Stadium, part of his video collage

Wade von Kramm’s Self Portrait, a crude plaster figure that casts a sophisticated shadow, demonstrates the importance of light in perception.

Wade von Kramm, Self Portrait, in plaster and shadow
Wade von Kramm, Self Portrait, in plaster and shadow

The Vitreous: Eyes & Optics, to Sept. 5. Free. Esther M. Klein Art Gallery, 3600 Market St. 215 966 6188

Tags

candace karch, cynthia greig, david bowen, lee arnold, sean hovendick, the esther m klein art gallery, vitreous, wade von kramm

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