Monday, January 12, 2009

what might have been...


i was recently looking over one of my favorite catalogs, from an exhibition/project done at the los angeles county museum of art in 1971. the project started in 1967, and was called art & technology. the idea was to connect an artist to a company dealing in technology or fabrication, and to allow through various meetings, for an artist to essentially dream something up and to potentially have it made. in many cases the technology wasn't there yet, and so many of the projects were relatively experimental (and some unrealizable).

a lot of people participated whose work made sense for such leaps - such as robert irwin, james turrell, takis, dan flavin, len lye, otto piene, etc. whose work dealt with a kind of kinetics or technology based perceptions. stockhausen was also a participant.

some of the corporations who participated were: ampex, container corporation of america, IBM, kaiser steel, pan american airways, RCA, litton industries, etc.

there are a ton of amazing projects, both realized and unrealized, documented in detail (it's an incredible catalog), and there are also documents from artists who ended up not participating. one of them who stands out in terms of their work seeming completely outside of participation in such a show, was ellsworth kelley.

here's what the catalog says:
MT saw ellsworth kelley in the fall of 1968 and described various available companies, particularly manufacturing firms that could be used for sculpture projects. kelley said that he was more interested in working with a computer corporation than in making sculptures. he described his paintings of the early 50's, made in paris, as responses to the random play of lights on the seine; he indicated that the systems of black and white configurations on these canvases might be analysed and permutated by use of a computer. he felt that this would be an important project to pursue but that his other commitments would prevent his serious involvement for at least two years.

there are a lot of interesting aspects to kelley's potential approach. of course, connected to my own interests are the ideas surrounding a set of information created by a computer that would then be used to make paintings; but also, unlike many of the artists in the exhibition, technology was not used for fabrication, but for conversation and potentially, inspiration. looking at the mid 1950's painting above, which is in the collection of MOMA, one can't help but wonder what kelley might have done had this worked out, and even more so, where it might have led him.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Marc said...

Just located a copy locally after reading your post. Will pick it up this weekend. Thanks!

1:04 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

This is incredibly interesting. I suspect Ellsworth Kelly himself would wonder the same thing - What if? But of course at the time you're just fending off people trying to divert you from your course. As an English person, I encountered Ellsworth Kelly every late, and quite by accident. I went to see a Cezanne show at the Tate, which was so crammed with people you couldn't get a good look at anything. Emerging from that after about 10 minutes, angry and frustrated, I entered a temple of calm that turned out to be an Ellsworth Kelly retrospective. Absolute bliss. And then a few years later, a complete turn-around, when in Paris I saw a show at the Pompidou Centre comparing and contrasting flower drawings by Matisse and Kelly. You mean he's the great master of geometric fields of colour AND he can draw like Matisse? **** as they say in Australia.

3:17 PM  

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