Manual Digital Curated by Beth Waldman at Space 151
Planes of light and dark in contrasting colors counteract one another, revealing remarkable complexity in the works on view as part of Manual Digital, an exhibit highlighting eight artists in the US working to deconstruct technological paradigm shifts through their work with traditional art materials and practices. Curated by artist, art consultant and independent curator Beth Waldman and presented by Levy Art + Architecture, the show is on view at Space 151 in San Francisco through March 25th.
Particularly fascinating are the complex works of artist Jamie Martinez, while the raw qualities inherent to Beth Davila Waldman’s paintings blur the line between reality and fantasy. Ted Lawson’s work harnesses natural materials to sculpt otherworldly creations, where Oleg Lobykin instead uses industrial tools to imply natural form. Abstracted works by Neil Murphy and Konstantin Zlatev invite subtle inquiry into form and abstraction. Jenny Day explores deconstructed environments and Victoria Mara Heilwell and Phil Spitler influence the physical environment at the gallery space.
The show’s theme reaches its zenith in the work of New York-based painter Jamie Martinez. Martinez is able to confront our fragmented contemporary vision head-on. Through a clever deconstruction of light, Martinez’ abstract oil painting compositions blend precision with a powerful translation of shadow and line. A look into our technical dissection of images, Martinez defies a simple understanding of this relationship, instead converting our contemporary experience of imagery from pixels to highly stylized planes of color. These oil on canvas visions of flattened images slow down the viewing process, allowing the viewer to revel in the pure aesthetic beauty of line and color. This contrast of technological vision translated into the traditional medium of oil on canvas creates a captivating tension present throughout the artist’s’ works.
In artist Beth Waldman’s work, a keen sense of space and texture are made evident. Drawing on a unique practice, Waldman immerses architectural photographs taken over the course of trips worldwide in painterly abstraction. Transforming real images into new compositions reminiscent of color field paintings, Waldman’s acrylic on canvas feel both familiar and ethereal. The structures these paintings are clearly modeled after buildings, but the viewer faces the artist’s intentional obfuscation when determining any information from the initial photograph. Evocative brushstrokes draw the viewer closer toward Waldman’s paintings, where the promise of recognition remains just out of reach.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ted Lawson’s sculptures dazzle in their ornate complexity. Revealing a thorough grasp of fractals and mathematical patterns, the artist chooses to manifest these complex structures using natural materials such as salt. The precise geometric pattern is enhanced by the use of materials and the added optical illusion created by the specific composition. In his 2015 piece “Dark Matter”, Lawson utilized a textured surface creating eye-catching accents on a uniformly structured piece. The result is a rewarding combination of cerebral intrigue and the promise of tactile pleasure.
The pleasure of the aesthetics of these artists’ works is heightened by the artists’ conceptual insights of modern technological and conventional art practice. Jenny Day’s constructed images question humanity’s place within our environment and our perception of nature. Heilwell & Spitler create an elevated model for form + function, and Lobykin employs an industrial lexicon to dazzling aesthetic effect. Murphy reveals a profound attention to the poetry of line, while Zlatev reconstructs familiar icons into unfamiliar imagery. In both Waldman and Lawson’s works technology is thwarted by the artists’ intrusion into technically constructed space and practice. In Martinez’ works, flat planes of pastels collide in deftly constructed clusters of detailed angles jutting out, encompassing different spectrums of the color wheel. Martinez shows us a world both abstracted and revealed. Embodying a subtle approach in processing technology’s influence, Martinez adroitly imagines in these paintings a flat yet elevated view of contemporary perception.
Embodying Manual Digital’s focus on interlocking geometries and the existing tension between the artists’ hand and technological precision, these artists cleverly upend viewer’s expectations on the type of art influenced by modern technology. Whether reconstructing imagery through a contemporary lens or arranging natural materials to dazzlingly accurate effect, artists in Manual Digital take an innovative approach by commenting on technology through a diverse range of manual practices.
By Audra Lambert