Overview of Exhibition
Drawn from the extensive Chicago-based collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma, Virtual Views explores the growing importance of electronic new media in contemporary art as seen in the work of artists who are pioneers in the use of LEDs (light-emitting diodes), LCD (liquid crystal display), and computer-driven imagery.
Virtual Views features a variety of electronic works each of which presents a paradox—it is comprised of synthetic materials and powered by digital technology, yet the rhythms and patterns of its imagery are derived from nature. The featured artists include Jim Campbell, Craig Dorety, John Gerrard, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Alan Rath, Daniel Rozin, Björn Schülke, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Leo Villareal.
Organized by the KMA and presented in conjunction with the Big Ears 2017 music festival, March 23-26, 2017.
Virtual Views: Digital Art from the Thoma Foundation
Drawn from the extensive Chicago-based collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma, Virtual Views explores the growing importance of electronic media in contemporary art as seen in a diverse selection of works by artists who are pioneers in the use of LED (light-emitting diode), LCD (liquid crystal display), and computer-driven imagery. The nine works in the exhibition are comprised of synthetic materials and powered by digital technology, yet the rhythms and patterns of their imagery are derived from nature. This area of strength within the Thoma Foundation’s digital art collection also echoes East Tennessee’s dual identity as a technological corridor containing Oak Ridge National Laboratories and the Tennessee Valley Authority, and as a biodiverse wilderness area that includes 244,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On a broader level, Virtual Views reflects the reality of a contemporary global culture whose general function and relationship with the natural environment are increasingly mediated by digital technology.
Large flat screen-based forms by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Daniel Rozin take full advantage of the interactive capabilities afforded by digital technology. Using algorithmic programming, cameras, and monitors, they create generative imagery that depends on audience participation. Found archival images of the natural world are optically transformed and digitally reconstructed by artists Jim Campbell and John Gerrard. Looping animations by Leo Villareal, Craig Dorety, and Jennifer Steinkamp explore the mind’s capacity to comprehend nature’s complexity. Works by Alan Rath and Björn Schülke are encased in sculptural bodies that extend their electronic imagery into physical space.
Through these diverse strategies and formats, the artists in Virtual Views create compelling statements about technology and the natural world. Several include imagery whose rhythms, textures, and contours are strikingly organic in character and natural in appearance despite being composed of synthetic elements. In others, found images or generative processes serve as links to nature and its evolving ecosystems. A corresponding evolution in imaging tools promises to equip future generations of artists with the creative means to challenge in new ways the narrowing distinctions between virtual and real. While reflecting the expanding presence of digital technology in contemporary society, Virtual Views offers evidence of its growing role in reshaping the landscape of contemporary art. Continued support of devoted collectors like Carl and Marilynn Thoma, coupled with broader institutional validation, promises to accelerate this transformation.
Virtual Views is organized by the KMA with the generous support of the Thoma Foundation and presented in conjunction with the 2017 Big Ears Festival March 23-26.
Presenting sponsors: Jennifer and Greg Dunn