The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech’s inaugural visual arts exhibitions will feature an inspiring blend of tradition and innovation, showcasing the pioneering work of technology-based artists who create thought-provoking work using digital imagery, video, and computer code. The center will mark the official public opening of its galleries on Monday, Oct. 28, from 6-8 p.m.
Embracing Virginia Tech’s strengths in science and technology, the opening gallery exhibitions showcase one-person exhibitions by internationally known digital-based artists Jennifer Steinkamp and Leo Villareal.
Steinkamp is an accomplished digital media artist known for her large installations of computer-generated, projected imagery. The Center for the Arts will feature her work, “Madame Curie, 2011,” a multi-channel, synchronized projection in the Ruth C. Horton Gallery.
The 50-foot wide, floor-to-ceiling projection of swirling flowers will sweep across the gallery in a continuous cycle of dynamic movement. Named for scientist Marie Curie, who was an avid gardener, the flowers in the piece were chosen from a list of flowering plants known to be in her garden. Steinkamp creates digital representations of the flowers using computer code. The seamlessly repeating video installation shows the vast tangle of flowers swaying gently in a silent wind, paying tribute to the extraordinary life and accomplishments of Curie while evoking underlying themes that bring into question both the triumph of scientific research and its potentially ominous consequences, the daunting struggle of women in the professional world, and the polarities of beauty and danger.
Steinkamp will speak about the evolution, process, and breadth of her work in new media during her artist talk, “From Computer Code to Virtual Realities…” on Friday, Oct. 18, at 4 p.m. at the Armory Art Gallery, 203 Draper Road.
Villareal, who is known for both his light wall sculptures and architectural, site-specific works, uses LED lights and computer-driven imagery to produce abstract works of art. The exhibition, “Digital Sublime,” will include three of Villareal’s signature works, “Amanecer,” “Big Bang,” and “Diamond Matrix,” which will be on display in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery and the Sherwood Payne Quillen ’71 Reception Gallery.
Using computer code and his own custom software, Villareal programs thousands of LEDs to produce pieces ranging from luminous, hypnotic fields of expansive color to complex, mesmerizing patterns of light. Villareal deploys pixels, zeros, and ones in binary code to build sequences that move, change, interact, and ultimately grow into complex organisms, exploring not only the effects of pattern and sequencing, but the underlying structure of systems.
For his most recent project, “The Bay Lights,” Villareal illuminated the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. The world’s largest LED light sculpture, the installation is 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high and features 25,000 white LED lights individually programmed to create a never-repeating, dazzling display.
After the special opening event on Monday, Oct. 28, the center’s galleries will begin regular hours: Wednesday-Thursday, noon-6 p.m.; Friday, noon-9 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. The galleries are free and open to the public. The center’s gallery exhibitions are curated by Margo Crutchfield, the Center for the Arts’ curator at large.
Also opening to the public on Oct. 28, will be an experimental piece commissioned by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology for the center’s experimental performance space, the Cube. “This Edge I Have to Jump” is a multi-screen, site-specific video installation created by Joan Grossman, a visiting faculty member in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts and a media artist who specializes in experimental non-fiction and documentary filmmaking. The work focuses on the illusory and idiosyncratic nature of creative process and will surround viewers with image, sound, and narrative fragments that draw on intimate conversations with artists, scientists, and educators. Admission to this exhibition is free and open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays.
'My Take Talks'
Complementing the center’s exhibitions is a special series of lectures. “My Take Talks” provide community members with the opportunity to share their perspective on the art featured in the galleries. Designed to encourage idea exchange in a relaxed, social atmosphere, these 15-minute talks provide an inviting space to experience art through the lens of diverse disciplines.
Work by area artists
Work by artists living in the surrounding region, including students at Virginia Tech, will be an integral component of the center’s visual arts program. As part of the inaugural exhibitions, work by area artists will be on display in various locations within the center. In addition, professional or graduate student artists living in Virginia are encouraged to submit proposals for “OpenLab,” the first in a new series of exhibitions celebrating the innovative work of Virginia artists. The “OpenLab” exhibition will open in the summer of 2014 and will include three solo exhibitions, each featuring an inventive 3-D, sculptural installation. Application requirements and submission information can be found online.
All events and exhibitions take place at the Center for the Arts at 190 Alumni Mall. The gallery event kicks off the center’s opening week activities, which include family-friendly events and an inaugural performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble. The opening week is sponsored by Virginia Living Magazine.