Sunday, August 5, 2012

Contrasting Exhibitions at PMCA

What looks like a Romulan mining spaceship crossing a wormhole boundary is actually a piece of artwork by Layer (an architectural firm owned by Lisa Little and Emily White) on display at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA).  This work (above) occupies the museum lobby and is pointed toward the San Gabriel mountains are it protrudes out facing north.  The work is obviously digital in origin and while it may have been executed by humans and assembled by human hands, it is machine-made.  Currently showing at PMCA is a comprehensive display of Edgar Payne's plen air oil paintings (below) from the early part of the previous century.  The galleries exhibited several themes to Payne's works -- the Sierra Nevadas, the Alps, the Southwest and ships.  I cannot help but contrast the works by Layer against those of Payne, separated by about a century in time.  Intuitively, I would be excited with the more modern work but Payne's Sierra Nevada mountain and Southwest painting were something to behold.  Layer's drawings, computer generated and all, may have some interesting algorithms behind them but somehow felt lifeless.  I almost felt the same emotion looking at Layer's works that I experience when I look at a visually and mathematically interesting graphic of a fractal.  While they may represent our best guess at how nature can be described via math and algorithms, I don't feel artistic emotion towards either fractals or Layer's works.  Art is about the human experience, right?  I may also have been biased by two of Payne's subject because I felt I had been there in the landscapes that he saw and painted.  The question remains.  How do you make digital art more "human"?

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