“UNCERTAINTY” at Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Art Center

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“Animation for Black (W)hole,” 2011, The Einstein Collective (Christopher O’Leary)

“Animation for Black (W)hole,” 2011, The Einstein Collective (Christopher O’Leary) Digital animation, 12′ diameter floor projection
Photo: Stephen Nowlin/ArtCenter, Courtesy the artist

The influence of science has proven time and again to spur revolution and spark debate in the arts—perhaps best epitomized by Picasso’s cubist explorations of the fourth dimension, inspired in part by Henri Poincaré’s La Science et l’Hypothèse (1902). Taking the opposing view and examining the influence of art on science is a little less obvious, and, perhaps, a little more daunting. The current exhibition, fittingly titled “UNCERTAINTY,” curated by ArtCenter’s Williamson Gallery director Stephen Nowlin, takes up this challenge as artists and scientists alike employ various artistic media to document and explore the current frontiers of scientific thought. The investigations provide not only a discourse of the sciences, but a dialogue that also reaches deep into the lexicon of artistic languages.

The walls of the main gallery are covered with a grid-like installation of stainless-steel wire sculptures. This series of seemingly playful formal abstractions created by statistician artist Edward Tufte are, in actuality, representations of subatomic particle unrest based on the theories of Nobel Laureate Richard P. Feynman. Like Sol LeWitt’s instruction-based installations, the Feynman Diagrams provide the conceptual blueprints for Tufte’s sculptures that were, like LeWitt’s drawings, arranged in a pre-specified manner that challenge notions of artistic intent. Jim Campbell’s ultra low-resolution images of Wave Studies verge on the perception-challenging idioms of the Light and Space crowd, with posterized black-and-white videos of slow-motion ocean waves rendered nearly unrecognizable into rhythmic pixelated patterns. Also transforming patterns of light, Christopher O’Leary of the Einstein Collective renders the phenomenon of an event horizon into a swirling mass of colored light projected on the floor of a darkened gallery; his interpretation of the sublime force of a slowly rotating black hole and quantum effects of Hawking Radiation, Animation for Black (W)hole (2011), exemplifies both formalist and scientific abstraction. Continuing this dialogue: Owen Schuh and Satyan Devadoss’s Cartography of Treespace verge into the territory of Pattern & Design, while 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics winner Donald Glaser’s glass slide documentations of particle collisions evoke Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise, and Jonathan Corum organizes exo-planets orbit maps in a modernist grid. Conversely, Marc Fichou’s mixed-media assemblage panels resemble a postmodern wunderkammer, or perhaps Rauschenberg’s Combines with A Beautiful Mind twist. Cataloguing the unknown is poetically manifest in Lia Halloran’s Deep Sky Companion, which pairs cyanotype prints and blue ink-on-vellum drawings based on Charles Messier’s astronomical catalogue. Documenting the mysteries of the night skies, these images evoke the intoxicating beauty of uncertainty.

Originally published in art ltd. magazine (Jan/Feb 2017)

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