Points of Engagement
February 6, 2020 - D. Dominick Lombardi for Dart International Magazine
The success of an exhibition, or any work of art for that matter, is its ability to engage the viewer. Engagement can be a bit more difficult to achieve when you eliminate any sort of representation, as with the current exhibition at the Hofstra Museum of Art, Uncharted: American Abstraction in the Information Age. The fact that this show truly connects with the viewer – in this instance, partly through the use and influence of technology – illustrates the more thought provoking side of abstract art. Organized by Karen T. Albert, Acting Director and Chief Curator, with essays by Laurie Fendrich and Creighton Michael, Uncharted quickly draws you in through a variety of means that include everything from hi-tech contraptions to mesmerizing optics. When curiosity is piqued and perceptions are expanded, the viewer becomes part of the expression – a key difference between completely spelled out narrative representational art and non-representational abstraction. That unavoidable brain activity that is prompted by something new or visually foreign is very different than the comfort that straight representation brings.
The kinetic sculptures of James Seawright add a strong technological component to the exhibition. Using various sensors, Twins (1992) can be a bit sensitive to the movements in its immediate environment adding to its already palpable creepiness. Gemini (2004) and Lyra (2006) movements and lights are completely preprogrammed. As objects, they give the impression of designs for futuristic theater or movie sets. Despite the fact that all these works are between 14 and 28 years old, they maintain their immediacy and freshness. Like Lynne Harlow’s All Above the Moon, John Goodyear offers another aspect of physical participation for the viewer. By carefully swaying the picket fence-like apparatus in front of his two paintings, the art immediately becomes animated with short bursts of movement. Figurative Abstraction (2015) has an almost hypnotic effect on the viewer when it is activated – something like fabric billowing in the wind. The result with Diving Board (1983) is quite different. It shows a person’s feet continually being propelled by a very springy board, while offering much needed humor to the omnipresence of more elusive technology.Read More >>