High Tech Gives Art an Assist

Two shows demonstrate that technologically sophisticated art can transcend geek culture and expand the possibilities for art.


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Kal Spelletich includes robots dressed in the clothing of Mark Pauline.

Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery

Traditionalists and neophiles may disagree about what art should be in 2019, but technology is not going away, and art will inevitably embrace it, as always; we can’t freeze time, but neither should mere novelty suffice. Two shows demonstrate that technologically sophisticated art can transcend geek culture and expand the possibilities for art.

Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots features 15 interactive robotic sculptures fabricated by the San Francisco machine artist, along with a trio of related photographs. While viewer-detecting sensors and push-button-operated servo mechanisms command and animate these apparatuses, they’re unassuming-looking, with a garage-scientist feel about them, and ironic in tone, in the Dada spirit. Several praying robots — from To Stretch Oneself Out (2008) to Clasping Hands (2014) — seem to parody religious devotions, although the artist is a devotee of Zen and Taoism: a floor lamp rotates like a prayer wheel; a pillow breathes. Three headless robots garbed in the unwashed clothing of artistic colleagues Mark Pauline, Kay Miler, and Chris Johanson perform their viewer-directed devotions. A few pieces make art-historical jokes: a wooden box containing a projection of a Rothko-style sublime landscape; and an animated stick figure, Russian Constructivist Significance Cross.

R&D (Rosenblum and Doyle): New Formalism in Painting and Photography features the collaborative work of photographer Diane Rosenblum and painter Joe Doyle, an artist team since 2012, under the evocative moniker R&D — Research and Development? — since 2016. Shown in the Armistead Gallery are seven large abstract inkjet works stretched on canvas, made with 3D modeling software and large-format printers. With their bright colors and flowing shapes, they invite comparison with abstract painters of the ’50s and ’60s like Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. But where those painters worked with flat pours of color, R&D’s organic images — named after jazz musicians — are shaded and three-dimensional, and marine-looking, with their tropical-fish palettes and coralline forms. Filling the adjacent Lockett Gallery is a panoramic, 345-degree photomontage of the Idaho studio of artist Judith Kindler: you art there.

Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots and New Formalism in Painting and Photography runs through Dec. 8, St. Mary’s College Museum of Art, 1928 Saint Mary’s Road, Moraga, 925-631-4379, StMarys-ca.edu.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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