Anything feels possible — and many of those possibilities are on delightful display in Bellevue Arts Museum’s group show.
Digital art doesn’t always look like digital art. The monumental black-walnut sculptures of “Paul McCarthy: White Snow, Wood Sculptures” at Seattle’s Henry Art Gallery give little clue that they’re computer designed and digitally carved. The digital-watercolor prints of Chuck Close at Everett’s Schack Art Center don’t loudly proclaim their cyber origins.
But digital design is, increasingly, everywhere. In the world of craft and fine art, it has made the most unlikely shapes, colors and materials possible. A whole arcane vocabulary — “rapid prototyping,” “selective layer sintering,” “fused deposition modeling” — has evolved to describe these new creative processes. Anything feels possible — and many of those possibilities are on delightful display in Bellevue Arts Museum’s group show, “Atoms + Bytes: Redefining Craft in the Digital Age.”
‘Atoms + Bytes: Redefining Craft in the Digital Age’
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. first Fridays, through June 26, Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue; $5-$12 (425-519-0770 or www.bellevuearts.org).
Savvily curated by BAM’s curator of craft, Jennifer Navva Milliken, “Atoms + Bytes” features work in glass, wood, plastic, ceramics, metals — and some thoroughly unexpected materials.
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Design team Emerging Objects’ “The Utah Tea Set,” from a distance, looks like a traditional tea service. But it’s 3D-printed from actual tea, sugar and liquid binder. Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed’s “Oiling” is what it seems: a hand-woven carpet. But while its upper half is in standard Oriental-rug patterns, its lower half is pure psychedelic delirium, thanks to Ahmed’s software-distorted warp-and-woof design.
Michael Eden’s “Voxel Vessel I” — an exuberantly impractical vase made of nylon and gold leaf — is more complicated. A voxel, we’re told, is “a single sample, or data point, on a regularly spaced, three-dimensional grid.” The surface of Eden’s vase, instead of being smoothly contoured as its 18th-century prototype would be, is an amalgam of jagged disconnections vaguely conforming to an overall vase shape. What’s more, it’s riddled with holes. Its mix of 24-karat gold leaf and mundane nylon drolly comments on which materials we do or don’t value in the arts. The piece’s striking beauty is undeniable.
What seems to drive the show’s artists is an urge to push unlikely ideas to their limit.
Sweden’s Front Design creates gloopy-looking white patio furniture out of thermoplastic powder. In an accompanying video, you can see the Front Design team spontaneously designing furniture with freehand “pen strokes” (basically, they’re just moving their hands around in the air). Using Motion Capture, the paths of their hand movements are converted into 3D digital files. The files are then 3D-printed into physical objects. The resulting chair and table don’t look comfortable — but they do look whimsically plausible
The funniest item in the show is Geoffrey Mann’s installation, “Cross-Fire.” One part of it is a table topped with silverware and china that seem to have undergone ghastly mutations. The other is a short video in which the dinner-table argument from the film “American Beauty” is re-imagined, not as a scene between human actors, but as energy waves rippling back and forth grotesquely through an impeccable table service, mirroring the abuse that husband and wife hurl at each other.
Other curiosities: a “chameleon guitar” with a protean repertoire of sounds; an enormous “Star Lounge” made of PLA plastic that resembles a geodesic igloo; and a dozen or so “puzzle rings,” both assembled and unassembled, whose intricate computer-designed pieces are made from nylon, brass, bronze and silver.
Combining digital and traditional processes, these artisans and artists are bent, in Michael Eden’s words, on “realizing objects that previously could only exist in the realm of imagination.”