For "Turing's Apple," a group exhibition at Redling Fine Art, New York video artist Tony Oursler sent out a chain email asking artists to contribute works about how computers and Internet culture shape the making and viewing of art.
The show's namesake, Alan Turing, was a British mathematician widely regarded as the father of computer science (and the subject of "The Imitation Game"). The titular apple must be that biblical fruit, whose consumption unleashed a new era, for better or worse.
In keeping with this theme, artists were asked not to submit physical works but to send digital files to be printed on canvas or displayed on monitors. Assembled and facilitated entirely by email, the show could only be more digital if it were online. But that would have been less interesting. It's the transformation of virtual to physical that is compelling: how ideas that took shape on a computer monitor somewhere else get "beamed" into the gallery and turned into physical objects.
The centerpiece of "Turing's Apple" is a giant digital printer. When I first visited the gallery, it was the only thing in the room; toward the end of last month, the walls had begun to fill up. New files were arriving so quickly that the gallery attendant was having trouble maintaining an accurate checklist. Two of the works were not on the checklist I received, and one of them was still resting on the floor, waiting to be installed.
The gallery has become both studio and exhibition space, with tools and supplies on a table behind the printer and works hung somewhat haphazardly around the room. Although all works are the same size and dimensions, it must be difficult to plan a decorous arrangement when the final number is unknown. The still images are printed on canvas and stretched on stretcher bars before being installed. Videos run continuously on four monitors arrayed around the room.
One standout is Marc Horowitz's video. It documents two furry, pink, Muppet-like figures clumsily chiseling away at a block of plaster and foam while complaining about how hard it is to make sculpture. It's a wry comment on the physical messiness of "old-fashioned" art-making, an effort that may seem ridiculous in the age of 3-D printing.
Jason Kraus addresses the infinite reproducibility of digital images by simply taking a photo of his desk. The image includes his computer screen, which is displaying the image he has just taken. The result is an endless hall of mirrors, receding nightmarishly into nothing.
Alexa Hoyer's image of a grimacing, downcast face, lighted only by a single glow from below, is reminiscent of a dramatic chiaroscuro painting, but is probably just a portrait of someone checking his cellphone in the dark.
Though not exactly an open call, Oursler's exhibition has the hallmarks of such omnibus efforts. Not all the works are interesting, and it's sometimes unclear what they have to do with the theme. But the show does have a freewheeling, work-in-progress vibe that is refreshing in its unpredictability. Although Turing's legacy has unleashed many a bad thing — 24/7 surveillance, pervasive marketing and the erosion of privacy, to name a few— it has also on occasion created opportunities to question and subvert the way things have traditionally been done.
Redling Fine Art, 6757 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 378-5238, through March. 12. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.redlingfineart.com
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