Digital wonder ground: Spruill Gallery's Breaking New Ground
Creative Loafing, May 28, 2008
By: Cinque Hicks
A scant six weeks on the job, Spruill Gallery Director Hope Cohn has hit the ground running with an exhibit featuring eight Atlanta artists, half of whom are Georgia Tech faculty, who execute work that draws heavily on digital technology. And the Dunwoody gallery's Breaking New Ground: Intersections at the Frontier of Art and Technology isn't a bad primer to the notion that art and technology aren't enemies, but partners in aesthetic investigation.
Kathryn Refi turns 1950s color field painting inside out by creating large-scale oil paintings that appear purely abstract, but in fact reference highly specific data collected from a head-mounted video camera. Refi wore the camera every waking moment for a week and then mined the footage for its color information in "Day 3" and "Day 4."
Danielle Roney, whose multimedia installations have sometimes lagged a half step behind her conceptual ambitions, brings the two together elegantly in "Liquid Architecture," a site-specific, two-channel projection that warps and morphs the Spruill site. Both artists bring a surprising tactile quality to their uses of digital technology.
Other works consist of a system the artist creates and then releases into the observer's hands. Visitors can manipulate sculpture to create and reshape ambient sound in Carla Diana's "Nest." Jason Freeman's online project "Graph Theory" allows participants to create violin solos on the fly from scraps of prerecorded sound.
Breaking New Ground's title is accurate mainly in that it refers obliquely to the upcoming construction of Spruill's 35,000-square-foot arts facility. The show itself, while engaging, sits about a decade back, when pervasive techno-euphoria insisted that art needed technology to "liberate" it. Cohn has favored work that emphasizes the technology – a curatorial straightjacket that limits the work mostly to utopian visions of futuristic light and sound. The approach accounts for most of the presentation's palpable gee-whiz, science-fair mode and a general absence of critical stances.
Breaking New Ground actually does "break new ground" in the rare instance when the artist refuses to get carried away by the technology, such as Roney in her critiques of architecture or when Refi exploits private information for public consumption. In a time when the most relevant technology-based art is tackling questions outside of technology, Breaking New Ground feels like a slightly dated but informative survey of the basics.