Drawing With Code at the deCordova

Apr 21, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on Drawing With Code at the deCordova

The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is, up until April 24th (go this weekend!), home to the installation Drawing With Code: Works from the Anne and Michael Spalter Collection.  This exhibit, comprised of works borrowed from the Spalters’ extensive collection in Providence, displays works in various mediums, from the 1950s to the present, that all share a common element: they were created through the use of technology, frequently by employing original algorithms and letting them work their artistic magic.  You can find out more about the exhibit, the artists involved, and the deCordova itself here.

As is always the case, each individual will have their own connection and find their own meaning in the pieces of this collection.  What struck me on my first pass through (I recommend walking through the whole collection at least twice) was how ordinary much of it seemed.  While some of the pieces (those of Jean-Pierre Hébert in particular) are quite capable of inspiring awe, much of them resemble things we see everyday now, including some of the animations, which are eerily reminiscent of the outcome of a winning game of solitaire on a Windows computer.

Where the setup of this collection really shines, though, is in providing context to the pieces.  When you walk into the exhibition space, be sure to thoroughly read the provided explanation (pictured above).  While that explanation in and of itself gives great context to the pieces, you’ll also find a phone number in there that you can call to be provided with insight and analysis on various works.  As you walk around the collection, you punch in the code for a particular work and you can hear either the curator or the artist themselves discussing the state of art, the state of technology, and the state of society when these works were produced, as well as explanations of the technology involved and the artistic choices made.

The net effect of all this, for me, was inspiring.  As I walked around I saw works that looked ordinary, but that I knew artists had struggled to create because of limited technological resources.  I now see art like that everywhere because we’ve progressed technologically and it’s therefore easier for artists make manifest their creativity.  There are, certainly, concerns about the homogenization of art through technology, but what these artists struggled so mightily to do has now become a part of our daily lives, and I think that’s a good thing.

The second reason this is inspiring for me is what it implicitly says about the future of art.  In a present where a 12 year old with a boot-leg copy of Photoshop can do things that these artists never dreamed of, I can’t help but be incredibly excited about what the continuing convergence of art and technology will produce, and about the rest of the CyberArts Festival in particular (shameless plug).  So get out to the deCordova and get your own history lesson to charge you up for what’s sure to be a great few weeks of CyberArts awesomeness.

Pro Tips:

  • Admission is $12 but discounts are given for a variety of reasons, including AAA membership and being a student, so check out their Admission Fees page, gather your credentials, and get a great deal (and now anyone who rides their bike there gets in FREE).
  • Budget plenty of time.  Drawing With Code is located on the very top floor of the museum, and it would be a shame not to work your way down through all the other exhibits (especially 24/7 by Rachel Perry Welty) and then get out on the grounds to explore the sculptures.
  • Bring headphones for your cellphone, lest you look like you’re rudely talking on your phone in the gallery while getting invaluable insights through the dial-in audio tour (like I did).

Drawing With Code: Works from the Anne and Michael Spalter Collection is on display through Sunday, April 24th at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Musuem, located at 51 Sandy Pond Road in Lincoln, MA.

Written for the 2011 Boston CyberArts Festival; read more by Steve Ayr at AyrLaw: The Blog.

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