I’m excited to announce, Sym.bi.osis: Art & Science Intersect, a new exhibition presented in the beautiful Robert F. Agrella Art Gallery located on the Santa Rosa Junior College Campus, Santa Rosa, California. Curated and designed by the dynamic team of Debra Lehane and Satri Pencak, the exhibition features the work of nine Bay Area artists whose work is based on scientific inquiry. The artists included are Amanda Hughen, John Roloff, Adrien Segal, Christopher Taggart, Gail Wight, and the team of Ken Goldberg, Sanjay Krishnan, Fernanda Viégas, and Martin Wattenberg.
The exhibition draws together artwork that investigates and interprets the natural world by touching on a selection of science disciplines, such as biology, geology, genetics, chemistry, oceanography, and physics—and using these as points of departure, the work in this exhibition allows the viewer to see how art and science can intersect and enlighten each other.
Science and art have a long-standing relationship and naturally overlap. Both are a means of investigation. The work of Leonardo di Vinci, one of the best known artists of the Renaissance, was informed by scientific investigation. The Astronomer, (1668) by seventeenth-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer celebrated an astronomer and his new scientific tools, the microscope and the telescope. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists such as Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, and Claude Monet were concerned with the physiological, psychological, and phenomenal effects of color and light. Present day artist, James Turrell, links terrestrial and celestial realms in his work, Rodin Crater, located in Arizona, by using engineering, along with his knowledge of light and space.
Symbiosis is defined as a cooperative relationship, as between two persons or groups or in this case two disciplines. While science and the scientific process can provide facts, theories, and principles to help us understand the world around us, the visual arts can provide interpretations and inspirations, thereby lending a deeper appreciation of both fields.
Amanda Hughen is interested in the ‘loaded gun’ theory of illness—genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger. Hughen uses fragmented imagery from maps, architecture, engineering, chemistry, biology and mass-produced objects to create portraits of microscopic transformation. Her imagery is not a direct translation of genetic materials, but rather her own interpretation. www.amandahughen.com.
John Roloff is a Professor of Sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute who works conceptually with site, process, and natural systems. Most recently he has become known for his large-scale environmental and gallery installations investigating geologic and natural phenomena. John states that his “work is an examination of psychological and conceptual relationships between humanity and nature, materiality and process, often evoking a poetic interplay between primal and scientific conditions.” www.johnroloff.com.
Adrien Segal’s Cloud Seeding Structures explore the concept of cloud seeding—a form of intentional weather modification which alters the microphysical processes within the cloud. Silver Iodide (AgI) is a compound commonly used in cloud seeding because it shares a similar crystalline structure to that of ice crystals. The sculptures are enlarged versions of these hexagonal molecular structures. Segal’s piece, River (Bench), replicates the shape of the Colorado River in its entire length, and its main tributary, the Green River. The bench and its base reflect water usage levels for particular years, and represent two of the largest categorical uses of water in the U.S. www.adriensegal.com.
Christopher Taggart holds degrees in both physics and art. By employing photography, sculpture, etching and collage, Taggart explores proportion, perspective, optical illusion, measurement, geometry, and the morphing of familiar things into strangely unfamiliar visual territories. Taggart’s sculpture, Filling Out Forms, 2011, was made by systematically scaling and reproducing a found object; in this case a payphone handset with its cord coiled up in a ring. Here the actual payphone handset acts as the root of the sculpture from which smaller and smaller copies of the original branch and multiply. Kudu (In the International Style), and Don’t Drink the Water, are drawings scribed and engraved into the surfaces of a black-anodized aluminum plates. The drawings are composed initially of a single continuous line, along this initial line a strict system of circles and lines is applied, which developed into a pattern of markings that can be found on a standard inch ruler. Through this construction the length of the original single line was geometrically measured.
Gail Wight is an Associate Professor of Art at Stanford University. Her investigations of science through art has resulted in a large body of work based on explorations into nervous systems, biochemical experiments, cognitive research projects, and other intriguing projects. For Under the Influence, each of the six solar burn “drawings” was taken from studies done in 1948 by the pharmacologist P.N. Witt, in which he dosed spiders with pharmaceuticals and then set them loose in picture frames to spin webs. Wight transferred images of the webs onto vellum, drawing them with graphite. She then methodically burned the images into the surface using the sun and a magnifying glass. Homage to the Wind, 2012, presents five short video clips about “seeing” the invisible. While reflecting on Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square, a series of paintings in which Albers investigated color in context, Wight’s videos are experiments in juxtaposition to challenge how one sees the world, and to think about perceptions of the environment in context. Restless Dust is a multimedia work that pays homage to Charles Darwin. In the text of a handmade letterpress book, the artist invites Darwin’s ghost to sail to present day San Francisco and wander with her through the greater Bay Area. The book is accompanied by a velvet-lined wooden box containing two illuminated paper birds. www.stanford.edu/~gailw
Ken Goldberg, Sanjay Krishnan, Fernanda Viégas, and Martin Wattenberg are a U.C. Berkeley-based team of artist/scientists. Their project, Drought, 2014, is an internet-based Earthwork that transforms live seismic data into an exuberant display of color. A seismometers at the Hayward Fault continuously measures the Earth’s motion and transmits this data over the Internet to the installation, where the data is processed to generate an ever-changing display of unpredictable circular color field bursts. Referencing landscape painting and abstraction, Drought creates a sublime experience of the growth and fragility of the natural world. http://goldberg.berkeley.edu/art/
Sym.bi.osis: Art & Science Intersect will be on view from September 15 to October 16, 2014. Gallery Talk with curators and exhibiting artists, Tuesday, September 23, 12 to 1 p.m. in the gallery.
Robert F. Agrella Art Gallery is located at 1501 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA, on the Santa Rosa Junior College campus. $4 daily parking permits are available for campus lots. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday 1 to 4 p.m. For more information please call 707-527-4298, or visit www.santarosa.edu/art-gallery.
Article and photographs by Satri Pencak and Debra Lehane.