"to give the mundane it's beautiful due" (1)
How quickly the magical promise of digital production has veered towards the mundane. A few fast decades and the world-changing possibilities and promises of digital production have revealed their limitations; rarely limitations of technical or material reach, but limitations of human engagement and individual acknowledgement.
So often digital presence seems to imply absence. Few illumations are as lonely as the gently glowing unattended monitor, mute and suggestive of a distant rage. So much of “ink jet art” for all its technical wiz bang is unmoving. The present day cuddling of digitally guided cutting and layering tools, C&C’s and 3D printers, may inevitably and surprisingly quickly loose a lot of their seductive gloss.
Maybe we ask for too much. It’s only technology. And yet the possibilities of new conversations continue to engage and are at times are delightful. Reassuringly, artists are yet again called upon to put “Us” back in the picture, a picture that we really never left. The trajectory is reassuring; once the initial hot flashes of awe pass we question the longer nature of the relationship, what can we do with it now? what’s in it for me? can it speak my language? will it share? how do we talk about it? Digital production has become an actor rather than a director, and that’s character, not leading man.
The works of Katie Pennachio and Matt Mancini share some points of origin, interests, sensibilities and maybe even emotional tone.
Both acknowledge their predecessors in the 20th and early 21st century. Both converse with contemporary digital technologies, at times to corral them, at times to celebrate them, but mostly to make these technologies work for them and to encourage their participation in a broad conversation. The “Tech” is sometimes the means, very rarely the end.
Pennachio starts with a suitcase full of painting history, Agnes Martin, Blinky Palermo, Sol Lewitt and many others. Employing a grid, “an emblem of modernity” (2) to bring some stability, unity and extended subject to the field. It could be the gird of Mondrian, Mies or Excel.
The physical nature of the paintings - their texture, the almost intimate scale and evidence of hand - engages the grid with all it’s monumentality and it’s utilitarian employ in a more human environment and personal exchange. The non-mechanical variation evident in the individual painted lines aspire like Davids to Modernism’s / Digitalism’s Goliath.
(Interestingly the dimensions of Pennachio’s paintings, 22” x 30”, are that of an “Imperial” sheet of paper, Painting! the forever-imperial art, correctly so)
Pennachio’s artifacts come from Painters, Mancini’s from architecture, industry and artists.
Images from a 1938 catalog of aluminum moldings are reborn through 2D scanning, 3D imaging, extruded and hand finished. History + Tech + Hand. His sculptures tip their hat to John McCracken, Ron Davis, and Craig Kauffman, and other “Finish Fetish” artists working in Southern California in the 1960’s & 70’s. His work allows that he is not at the start of this conversation but is part of the continuum, “another grain in the silo.” (3)
Mancini’s competence with various modes of digital production combined with “hand finish” just about exclude issues of “Digital Production” from the conversation. We might be entering a post “anxiety re: digital” age. Inevitably there will be some winners, some losers.
Both Artists have a laudable sense of acknowledgement, participation and long haul continuity. Theirs is neither “for or against” digital technology. It is never that strident; no manifesto here. They and others in their generation have taken a reassuring step back or maybe to the side from the “snap, crackle, pop” of 80’s & 90’s techno boosterism and are looking again at the hand, the object, the surface and the digital. This landscape has a little more latitude, that’s good.
1. J Updike
2. R Krauss
3. L McMurtry