“Pixels, Voxels: A Small Works Invitational” at the Lux Center for the Arts asks one of the oldest questions about art updated to a contemporary context.
The question -- Is an artist’s “hand” needed in a work for it to be art?” -- has been asked since the dawn of photography in the 19th century, from Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades to Andy Warhol’s silkscreens to Jeff Koons’ assembly line in which the artist never touches the work that carries his name.
Now the question has become “Is pushing 'print' creating art?” Using 3-D printing to make works that skeptics say can be repeatedly reproduced with no intervention on the part of the artist.
The works in “Pixels, Voxels,” however, effectively argue that 3-D printing, just like the technologies that have come before it, is another tool in the hands of an artist, whether those hands “build” the piece or not.
And it demonstrates that the new technology can create one-of-a-kind objects, as singular as any painting, sculpture or ceramic.
The best examples of that are “PN 498 Revived” by Bryan Czibesz, Jessica Brandl and Gina Tibbott and “3-D Printed Pencil Holder” by Keith Simpson. The former puts a 3-D scan of a pottery shard from Pompeii inside a ceramic cup. The latter loosely calibrates the printing so the porcelain falls in on itself, by definition creating a unique object while utilizing math and chance in a manner that hints at surrealism.
An international exhibition -- “Skull No. 2,” a tiny white polyester representation of part of a skull, comes from Monika Horcicova of the Czech Republic -- “Pixels, Voxels” includes the work of two Lincoln artists among the 15 in the show.
Shalya Marsh’s paired pieces “Knot Through” and “Not Knot” invite the viewer to suss out the codes she embeds in the work, while Liana Owad demonstrates how technology can be used in service of an artist’s primary practice, utilizing laser etching on the wooden bottle of “Aroma.”
Curated by Lux gallery director Bri Murphy, “Pixels, Voxels” is small by design, its layout and the size of the work playing off the exhibition’s title.
The pixel is the small block of color -- a term invented in the ‘60s when computers were in their infancy. The voxel is a new term for the 3-D building block, a la the pixel.
Pixels are represented by brightly colored rectangles behind each of the pieces that sit on small blocks on the gallery wall. Voxels are represented by the scale and presentation -- all of the work had to fit into a 6-by-6-by-6-inch cube.
That might seem overly restrictive. But, in fact, it works the other way around, allowing Brian Harper to make a tiny asteroid via a 3-D printed version of a NASA flyby scan of a giant space rock, reducing the object that has never been on Earth to viewable scale.
There’s humor in “Pixels, Voxels,” too. It's provided by Austin Weiland, who has embedded a pair of tiny LCD screens a la those in a desk telephone, inside ceramic boxes. Push the button and one screen reads “Please Wait …,” the other “Loading ….” Of course, there’s nothing else to load -- replicating ad infinitum the primary frustration of the digital era.
Murphy, who works with new technologies in her practice, brought the show to the Lux because she hadn’t heard the discussion that the show sets out in Lincoln.
Gathering a good sampling of artists working with 3-D printing and effectively displaying their work in the small space, Murphy has started the discussion. And the work itself answers the “Is pushing print art?” with an resounding "yes."