Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Louisville Art Expedition

Last Thursday, our computational art class took a trip to Louisville to explore some of the art museums there as well as the Science Center. Part of our trip involved an artwork-scavenger hunt, in which Dr. Stonedahl created a checklist of attributes that each of us found the best match for. We left early at 8 o'clock in the morning and braved a winter weather advisory but I think it was worth it.

Out first stop was the 21c Museum. It's call to fame is that the museum is the first in North America dedicated solely to 21st century art, not to mention that it is part of a hotel to help generate revenue. Although the museum was in between exhibits and thus a bit bare, there still were several works that I enjoyed. The following pieces for the scavenger hunt were found at the 21c Museum.

The piece I felt involved the most computation was titled Text Rain. For this work, a camera is placed in wall so that it "watches" the people/object that are in its view. Then, it sends the letters of a poem down but has them stop when they reach those people/objects. It does this by having the letters stop when they reach a dark patch, such as my silhouette, as shown above. This process likely involves the use of an algorithm that prevents each letter from moving past a point that was a certain contrast level.

The above piece is titled A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing and I felt that it was the piece closest to the style of artist Chuck Close. Close gained fame largely through his photorealistic artworks that were so real and detailed that they appeared to be photographs until closer inspection revealed otherwise. Although the scene depicted in A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing isn't very realistic, the details and appearance of the man and wolf, not to mention details such as the refraction of his legs in the water, rival a photograph in realism.

The most conceptual of the pieces I saw was the waterfall found in the men's bathroom of 21c. With conceptual art, the methods and ideas take precedence over the aesthetic and other concerns. The conceptual artist Sol Lewitt stated in his Sentences on Conceptual Art that the artist could not imagine his art until it was complete and that the artist should not change his mind midway through the execution of an art piece. The water in this piece reminds me a lot of these opinions in that it is difficult to imagine the end result of the piece because the water will always fall differently. Additionally, it's hard to stop the water midway through its course and the artist is forced to let it fall all the way. Perhaps this translation is a bit literal, but that is how I saw it.

When I looked down at my scavenger hunt sheet and saw a blank for the art with the greatest element of "randomness," I immediately thought of Wheel of Fortune, pictured above. The work is a record of the 1974 tornado that leveled much of Louisville. Anne Peabody constructed the items seen in the piece from memories of the tornado and images of the disaster. Although the shape of the piece may not be random, I thought the items were, and understandably so. To me, the variety of items gives the appearance of chaos and I get a sense of just how bad the tornado must have been for Peabody and the residents of Louisville who were affected.

There were some displays at the 21c Museum that were not presented as art but I thought should be. Case in point are the cork cylinders pictured above. To my knowledge, they were not given a name but I thought that they were pretty cool and not merely decorations or some version of a coffee table. I really liked how they were movable and thought they went well with the seating that was adjacent to them. A fitting name might be something simple like Cork Table.

Conversely, I was skeptical of some of the work that was displayed as art. An example is pictured above and was named Cloud Rings (the photo above was taken by Karen Porter for Louisville Images on Flickr). I just felt that the piece was nothing much more than a fancy vapor machine and landscaping tool. There was nothing that really appealed to me as art. Yes, there may be a connection to the artist and one to nature as well, but it was not evident to me as I looked at it. 

After the 21c Museum, we made our way to the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft not too far away. Although the connection to computational art was less evident there, we still were able to find artwork that inspired us and related to our art ideas for class. The ground floor of the museum was part store, part museum while the second and third floors solely housed artwork. The following artworks pictured were all from this museum.

In class, we have been working with recursion and how it can both apply to and be art. Essentially, recursion deals with how objects repeat in a self-similar way. Thus, when I stumbled upon the artwork pictured above, I saw recursion in an art piece. Titled The Nest, if you look closely, you can see a smaller,  hollow wicker ball inside the similar larger one. From my brief time with The Nest, I wasn't able to see another ball inside the smaller one. I didn't want to disturb the piece by shaking it, so I determined that there were only two. Overall, I found this work clever and thought it displayed recursion in a different way.

Of the pieces that I saw, this one, called The Prairie, Coyotes, and Dogs, inspired me with an idea for a computational art piece. First, the way the image consists of rectangular patches is much like the square patches found in NetLogo (the software and language we use in class to make art). Additionally, the image is similar to a photomosaic, which we also studied in class. More important, the colors vary throughout the image. For instance, the grass is not uniformly made up of similarly-colored green patches. Instead, different shades of green, yellow, and brown consist of the grass. Knowing this, I want to apply this to my computational art and experiment by placing related but still different colors together algorithmically to make images and shapes.

Overall, my favorite artwork would have to be the one pictured above, The Raft. I think it's because it reminds me of the Flintstones and their awesome mode of transportation and just my general fascination with cars. Plus, it's just pretty awesome to look at, which is my favorite part of art.

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