Saturday, November 8, 2008

Day Breaks

"I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of paintings as mechanisms. I recently met the eccentric visionary artist Paul Laffoley, who insists that many of his two-dimensional mixed media works are, in fact, interactive devices capable of distorting local space-time – with a variety of effects including time travel, group telepathy, and contact with alien consciousness. Form follows function.

What really got me thinking along these lines are the recent paintings of Linda Day, whose elaborately composed 2003 digital glitchscape Pulse series I characterized at the time as “intricate stripe paintings saturated with the spectrum and perceptual idiosyncrasies of the Southern California landscape.” While these works still bear up to that reading as analogous representations of a localized sensorium, in retrospect they seem less illustrative, and more like – well, mechanisms.

Oddly enough, this interpretive shift was triggered by a reduction in the compositional complexity of the Pulse project, from the information superhighway boogie-woogie of the original 2004-2005 paintings to the striated freeze-frames of the recent Flesh and Between/Beyond series. The effect is similar to the cinematic special effect known as “Bullet Time” where a flurry of action is suddenly slowed down drastically, or frozen entirely, but the viewer’s perspective – as mediated by the camera of course – continues to move through the virtual pictorial space, allowing for careful detailed examination of events and processes that were previously only a heady blur.

Of course the key phrase there would be “as mediated by the camera,” which puts the finger on the point where these technologies of visualization diverge: at the exact juncture where the creative participation of the viewer becomes a possibility. For whatever special effects are being offered up by a painting – optical, pictorial, spatial, kinaesthetic, spiritual, what have you – depends enormously of the volition of the viewer to establish and maintain contact between the artifact in question and their own perceptual systems.

Much of Linda Day’s work is directed toward the activation of this co-creative feedback loop, and her aesthetic decisions can be traced in part to the gradual tweaking of the parameters of this relationship. The shift from the streaming grid of the first Pulse series (via passage through the architectonic Chime and Corona series) involved the disappearance of the hovering, interwoven vertical rectangular tab shapes which – while articulating the complex and ambiguous spatial characteristics of the horizontally striped “ground” – also suggested a horizontal (though not necessarily left-to-right) reading.

Although this quasi-informational signal pattern added a further layer of dimensional complexity to the already intricate and subtle effects created by the bands of luminous saturated color along which it was arrayed, it also triggered the narrative centers of the viewer’s mind as well. Hardwired (and continually conditioned) as we are to surrender ourselves to the most linear and teleological of entertainments, the prodding awake of our brain’s storytelling subroutine often has the effect of derailing less privileged and more contemplation-dependent modes of perception, persuading us that we have had a physical experience that we have not."

Read the rest of Kicking Away the Crutches in Bullet Time: Day’s Long Journey into Now in the catalog (and on the poster) available in conjunction with Day's solo exhibition at Jancar Gallery opening tonight, Sat Nov 8, 6-9 PM in Chinatown.

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