Tucker Stilley has always shown an interest in quantum physics, but his “Virtual Artist in Residency” at The Monte Vista Projects Gallery is the first time I’ve seen so much work by one artist dedicated to the scientific theory. It’s like a visit to SpaceCollective.org with paints and music. Curated by his fellow Massachusetts College of Art classmate and friend, Sam Durant (who has a great show of his own “This is Freedom” at the Blum and Poe Gallery) this is an LA Times critically acclaimed, must see presentation that has been extended until May 3rd, 2009.
I’ve written about my brother-in-law’s amazing work on this blog before when a showcase of his video art was presented at the REDCAT in 2008. Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2004, Tucker no longer has control of his limbs, so he uses a reflective bindi-dot on his forehead to control a complex system of computer technology. The “How We Do It” video explains the method behind the creation of his on-going hyper-signal artwork, “The Permanent Record of NewJack_Rasputin.”
In the program notes for the Monte Vista, Tucker writes, “I feel it is logical, my own nervous system failing, that I would spontaneously generate an alter-ego, tear a hole-in-space and try to escape. My situation warrants immediate and drastically uncompromising self-metamorphosis. An exquisite new aesthetic unfolds when you are standing on the deck of a burning ship. Being paralyzed amplifies the uneasy link between intent and action and brings into question the true meaning of this place and time that we occupy…and of what our ultimate audience might prove to be.”
If this is a blog about Unconventional Media, then Tucker’s pirate avatar, NewJack Rasputin is leading the charge, wielding a sword. First stop at the gallery should be a read of the comic book, written and created by Tucker. It is the backstory of NewJack Rasputin. It is as cryptic as most of Tucker’s work, requiring close scrutiny. Each reading I discover new thoughts and true life personal history. Most of the comic book is available to view online at Tucker’s site, www.TuckerStilley.com.
There is a virtual media experience where gallery visitors and online viewers can interact with Tucker as he works. The viewer has the experience of being inside the computer, looking at the artist’s “frailty and strength.” Online, no matter where you live, you can catch Tucker making art – most days around 2 – 9pm, Pacific Time (Note: if you hear “crickets” he’s not at his console). I’ve never seen the webcam technology put to better use. As we watch we could become part of his next work. At the gallery, there is a “keyboard” below the computer screen encasing over 465 used, reflective bindi-dots. To the left of the computer are his recent brain scans. Symbolic representations of the time Tucker has used just the turn of his head to create his art. Above the brain scan are redefined photographs of three talents who also had ALS, Mao Tse-Tung, Leadbelly and Charles Mingus; now all with Mickey Mouse ears.
In one corner of the gallery is a collage of xeroxed photos and 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of printed words stained with red wine and tea. (I’m in one photo, can you find me?) Since the disease has made it difficult for Tucker to speak, the sentences, to friends, family and medical staff, read like poetry and haiku, a real understanding to the artists present psyche. “T.O.E. (Theory of Everything),” a scroll of inkjet print outs and xerox photos overlaps one end of the word collage. This is an older work, (which I’m proud to say I own a signed reprint copy), from his early days of computer art. More stuff like this can be found at his website. It’s a strong piece to have in the exhibit, not only because one image on the scroll shows Tucker drawing with his hand, when he could, but it also evokes the theories of time travel and quantum physics found in much of the recent works, many with “Time Weave” in the title. One example, “Time Weave 63-11 Roberta” is a great representation of a person being in more then one place at a time.
The color prints of computer generated art, some of it originating from super 8 film footage or old photographs, much of it requiring viewing at different distances to fully understand the scope. “Gimpcon Auto-collage, Self Portrait” looks to be a collection of patterns and shapes until you step back far enough to realize it is a portrait of Tucker wearing sunglasses. Same holds true with “Last Wine Stomp at Dressle.” My favorites of manipulating visual images into color were the “3-D Hawaii” series and “Midnight Nude at Noon.”
The “Ghost Photo” collage series reminded me of some of the first photographs from the last century that we’ve been researching for the New Orleans Paraplex documentary or stills from old silent films. I also really liked “El Morro,” a freeze frame shot from one of Tucker’s short videos. In the video, a big tire tube appears on the beach in a seven second circle of life at the edge of the Pacific. In the still frame, the tire is frozen, peering out to the horizon, like a cast member from “Lost.” Speaking of “Lost,” a shout out must go to the poster at the entrance to the gallery. This is from a conceptual art piece Tucker did a few years back covering telephone poles with posters of an Iquana-lizard man lost like a neighborhood dog.
It’s an incredible show. If you can’t make it to Los Angles, so much of Tucker’s art work can be seen on his website. And just like his art, there are many “Easter Egg” surprises to explore and lead you to his music, video and other art. It is a real interactive website. Also visit “All Hands on Board,” a social networking site of friends and fans of Tucker Stilley’s work. It is also another portal to his “Hole in Space” webcam. For me, he is a mentor to the real possibilities that can be achieved with new media, new technology and new ideas.
Monte Vista Gallery
5442 Monte Vista Street
Los Angeles, CA 90042