Review (AJC): Spruill director's debut meshes art, technology

By Catherine Fox

June 15, 2009

Hope Cohn's first exhibit as director of Spruill Gallery offers an intriguing array of sound and visual works. Some are investigations, while others are fully realized art. They all meet, however, at the intersection of art and computer technology.

On the R&D side, several Georgia Tech professors use interactive technology to promote and create musical experiences. Jason Freeman's interactive composition, for instance, enables everyone to be a composer. The program favors self-empowerment over skill or knowledge, but that seems to be the way of the great Internet democracy we inhabit.

The visual artists contribute more in the way of finished products. In the spirit of the mathematical systems that Minimalists use to generate musical compositions, Philip Galanter devises generative software to create his work. 

A regular Gregor Mendel, he makes what he calls "virtual biological systems" whose "genes" determine length, color, width, pattern. The digital images thus created, displayed in light boxes, resemble both flora and microscopic organisms.

Galanter's innovative technology upstages his art, which in itself is neither visually memorable nor thought-provoking. In contrast, Kathryn Refi makes technology a servant, not the master. She records a day's activities with a camera affixed to a baseball cap and uses a software program to analyze the tape and encode it in terms of color. She then uses this information to determine the colors and widths of the stripes of her abstract painting.

Though superficially akin to Minimalist generative systems, Refi turns the principle on its head. While artists such as Sol LeWitt used systems to eliminate authorship and subjectivity, her process could be interpreted as the desire to find order in the random, to simplify the complicated. 

In other words, to feel in control. You could also construe Refi's diary painting —- it is after all a "picture" of a day in her life, if not a revealing one —- as a commentary on the limits of art and technology.

For her installation, Danielle Roney has videotaped similarly mundane images —- the chandelier in the gallery and the view of the street —- to very different effect. Using morphing software, she transforms the banal into the stuff of a hallucinogenic reverie or a funhouse mirror, as formerly solid objects stretch and undulate like silly putty. 

Eerily consonant with the recent earthquake, the piece resonates with scientific and metaphysical implications, such as the nature and fragility of matter.

All in all, an auspicious debut for Spruill's new director.