Casey Reas is one of the biggest names in contemporary new media art. Co-creator, with Ben Fry, of the electronic sketchbook Processing, which is used as both an entry point for newcomers to creative coding and by seasoned pros, Reas' generative art builds on the conceptual and minimalist foundations of artists like Sol LeWitt, filtering it through the lens of software.
As well as his stunning dynamic images and videos, he's also collaborated with Aranda\Lasch to build a generative tour environment for Yeasayer, in partnership with The Creators Project, and now he's back with his first solo show in more than five years, ULTRACONCENTRATED, which opens tonight at the bitforms gallery in New York.
"The entire show is about mediation," Reas told me via email. "The ready-made title ULTRACONCENTRATED refers to ideas about perception, mass media, capitalism, and technology." The exhibition will feature a "visual assault of projections, prints, and fabricated objects," and, Reas says, "there's a violence to the work that pulls all the way through to the sublime."
The exhibition features two new software pieces, a diptych called Ultraconcentrated and Americans!, and will also feature photographs, a collaborative sculpture created with Aranda\Lasch, and aluminum objects. Apart from the sculpture, all the pieces are created from terrestrial television broadcasts, using the transmitted signals as raw material to create the works.
Casey Reas, One Non-Narcotic Pill A Day.
"The series is about media and the body," Reas explains. "Signals that are continuously flowing through the air and through our bodies are captured through an antenna that is capable of sensing a range of the electromagnetic spectrum that is outside the capacity of the human body. These signals are both obscured and enhanced by custom software; they are pushed to the edge of legibility within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can sense—visible light."
The work is a slight departure from Reas' generative software art, it has a more architectual quality and explores video-driven software systems. "It's my longstanding interest in collage—in finding existing media and composing it in different ways to produce new meaning." Reas says when I ask him about why he chose to work with these. "When I reference collage, I refer to artists such as Schwitters, Höch, Rauschenberg, and Heinecken. I feel that video is the most compelling raw media material to collage—it's the dominant format for mass communication."
Casey Reas, Level 2 Biohazard.
Reas has experimented with different formats over the years, scaling his work upwards. "It's been a long transition to increase the scale," he says. "It's about experimentation and experiencing my ideas at different scales." But although he's been working on a larger scale he still continues to work on the more intimate level. "Even though I've started to build at this larger size, I continue to work at an intimate scale, with small-format c prints and software for screens. Writing software and working with light (pixels and projections) is how I spend nearly all of my time."
ULTRACONCENTRATED at bitforms runs from September 5 to October 12 2013
Casey Reas, Taken By Injection.
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