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LIGHT AND SOUND

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Publication: Journal Santa Fe Section; Date: Jul 22, 2011; Section: Gallery Guide; Page: S8

LIGHT AND SOUND Installations’ use of technology captures viewers’ imaginations Art Issues MALIN WILSONPOWELL For the Journal

Through Aug. 20, Dwight Hackett projects is an outpost for joy, good will and delight, those BIG gifts that are generously bestowed most frequently by the best of artists. In this case, the work of both artists –– the justly internationally acclaimed Jennifer Steinkamp and the emerging Tyler Adams –– use technological savvy in their investigations of perception. Steinkamp’s “The Vanquished” is a threescreen installation that is a preview of her homage to Auguste Rodin’s infamous 1887 sculpture titled “The Age of Bronze.” Steinkamp’s astonishing computer animation of a tree changing through the seasons was commissioned by the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) for an exhibition opening Oct. 22. As with many, many previous installations, she identified an inspiring architectural feature of the museum and created this work for the ornate landing in the stairwell, where Rodin’s sculpture is typically installed. NOMA is a 1911 Greek Revival building, the kind of early 20th century Beaux-Arts American temple to art that required symmetry, a hierarchy of space, classical architectural details and what was then called statuary. Rodin’s “The Age of Bronze,” is a life-size nude male figure inspired by Michelangelo’s “Dying Slave,” that was originally titled “Le Vaincu” (The Vanquished). When first exhibited, critics charged the artist with fakery, or cheating, or surmoulage, i.e., having taken a cast from a living model. For the installation at Dwight Hackett, three luminous human-scale screens are framed as if they are doorways, and they are –– doorways to pure pleasure. When Rodin made his then-unconventional figure of a body in motion, he studied his model from all angles climbing a ladder for additional perspective, and he made studies by candlelight. We see Steinkamp’s magical trees from an aerial perspective with silvery shadows cast on the ground by an overhead light. It is as if the viewer hovering above the tree is also illuminating the mandala-like splay of branches that twist and twirl and unfurl. Known for her animated computer abstractions since 1989, Steinkamp began to festoon darkened walls with rivers of brightly colored flowers in 2002, moving onto serpentine, enchanted trees for the 2003 Istanbul Biennial, a triumph that launched her onto a worldwide stage. Her ongoing exploration of trees harkens back to her student years: “I have always been intrigued with the beauty of real plants illuminated by artificial light during the evening. I made photo series back when I was a student … (and) what is most interesting … is the contrast between the natural and the manmade.” Like Rodin, Steinkamp is a master of light and shadow, as well as an indefatigable, technical innovator who has created unforgettable public commissions that touch a public much broader than the art crowd. In Las Vegas while watching her FIV-minute pulsing sequence of patterns titled “Aria” commissioned in 2000 for the 90-foot high, four-block long canopy at The Fremont Street Experience, the crowd burst into spontaneous applause. In her phenomenal and phenomenologically thrilling productions to date, Steinkamp has always acknowledged her awakening to the possibilities of moving digital imagery was the 1982 class of “synaesthetic cinema” she took with Gene Youngblood at Caltech. This was followed by a decade working as a professional animator with the most sophisticated equipment in the Silicon Graphics lab using SGI computers, developing a process that requires long hours at a computer followed by site tests. As noted by Dave Hickey in a very informative and fully illustrated monograph “Jennifer Steinkamp” (2006), Steinkamp has revived the languages of abstraction and dynamic systems discussed in the structuralist conclaves of the late 1960s that was presumed to have died. She has returned “the erotics of form, the aesthetics of clouds, the allure of liquid dynamics, the beguiling appeal of “pied beauty” ––everything that was haptic, fractal, tactile, restless and multi-hued.” At Dwight Hackett, the same loop of animation is cycling on three screens at durations varying from 2 ½- to- 3 minutes so they are out of sync with one another. Consequently, nature’s epic progression of the tree through the seasons is always seen in counterpoint. Steinkamp’s swaying and unfurling musical trees sprout precise, brilliant green leaves and berries only to shed the ripe, red fruits in a titillating cascade; this is followed by an autumn succession of yellowshifting-to-orange leaves tossed by turbulence, then followed by another more dramatic tumble of leaves to reveal bare, writhing Medusa-like limbs. As if this weren’t enough to keep viewers returning to the gallery for repeated immersions in beauty, the hilarious sound sculptures and videos of Tyler Adams are laugh-outloud. If Steinkamp updates the Rococo tradition of enlivening interior spaces with sinuously moving tendrils, Adams expands our perception of dynamic auralspatial-visual-temporal relationships using unadorned, lightweight loudspeakers. Ultimately, his configurations of stripped-bare speakers is about the dynamics of how things meet. They suggest the interactions of couples and crowds. You have to see/hear these works to appreciate the artist’s deadpan sense of humor, reminiscent of William Wegman’s very early blackand-white videos of his interactions with his dog, Man Ray. Adams’ frivolity feels integrated and subversive, addressing your physical being with both subtle and clamorous surprises that do an end run around the mind. While the majority of museum and gallery sound installations are thoroughly annoying with earplugs required for staff sanity, Adams’ largest and only audible installation titled “Interstitital,” manages to be both present and soothing. Each of seven metal tubes that are standing upright is a different length and holds a speaker facing upward tuned to a different frequency. Above each tube is a speaker hanging face downward so that the space between the speakers or the interstices are pumped full of sound waves that interact and propel the hanging speakers to circle in perpetual slow motion, i.e., as long as there is electrical current. Five short “Sound Studies” totaling 35 minutes run continuously and each presents a tight overhead shot of a black speaker cone and the impact of its vibrating voice (heard on earphones) on an unlikely element. For example, a speaker frozen in ice is titled “Melt”; balls rolling in the diaphragm or cone are titled “Orbit I & Orbit II”; a pool of water and its transformation from silky surface to concentric rings to roiling to sudsing to popping, splattering outside the perimeter is titled “Displacement.” Inexplicably, these simple demonstrations keep you on the edge of your seat, even if you do feel a bit silly having so much “dumb” fun. Why is “Addition/Subtraction” – a sequence of pastel Styrofoam packing peanuts crowding and popping out of the circular black cone so compelling? Beats me, and I don’t care. If you go WHAT: Tyler Adams: “Interstitial” & Jennifer Steinkamp: “The Vanquished” WHERE: DWIGHT HACKETT projects, 2879 All Trades Road WHEN: Through August 20. HOURS: 12-5 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday and by appointment CONTACT: 505-474-4043 or info@ dwighthackett.com

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7/22/11 10:09 AM


LIGHT AND SOUND

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COURTESY DWIGHT HACKETT PROJECTS “The Vanquished, 2, (fall), 2011” is part of Jennifer Steinkamp’s three-screen computer generated animation installation.

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7/22/11 10:09 AM


LIGHT AND SOUND

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“Interstitial,” a 2011 sound installation by Tyler Adams, can be seen –– and heard –– at Dwight Hackett projects through Aug. 20.

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7/22/11 10:09 AM

Tyler Adams + Jennifer Steinkamp at Dwight Hackett  

Review of Tyler Adams "Interstitial" + Jennifer Steinkamp "The Vamquished" exhibition at Dwigth Hackett

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