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Michael Craig-Martin Lights Up Goss-Michael Foundation


by Stephen Becker 5 Feb 2010

Every day between Saturday and April 30 that you don’t spend at the Goss-Michael Foundation, you’ll be missing a work of art that will never be seen again. That’s probably a little more sensational than the situation warrants. But it is true. The Goss-Michael Foundation will open an exhibition of Michael Craig-Martin’s work on Saturday […]

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Ok, 2009, by Michael Craig-Martin, acrylic on aluminum

Every day between Saturday and April 30 that you don’t spend at the Goss-Michael Foundation, you’ll be missing a work of art that will never be seen again.

That’s probably a little more sensational than the situation warrants. But it is true.

The Goss-Michael Foundation will open an exhibition of Michael Craig-Martin’s work on Saturday that charts the artist’s evolution in recent years. The London-based artist is known for combining iconic images of everyday objects with a loud palate full of hot pinks, electric blues and other vibrant colors. More recently, he’s begun adding letters into the mix, morphing his once simple images into busy, but well-balances, assemblages.  The show combines pieces in the Goss-Michael collection with work on loan from the artist as well as a massive, sight-specific wall covering.

A similarly conceived portrait of architect Zaha Mohammad Hadid hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Photo: National Portrait Gallery.

But the part of the show that everyone will come away talking about is a pair of portraits Kenny Goss and George Michael commissioned. Instead of the traditional painting route, Craig-Martin created the black line portraits on a wall-mounted LCD screen. Providing the color is a computer programmed to randomly project 44 colors onto the screen. But the colors aren’t projected all at the same time; instead, each feature of the portrait – say, the eyes or hair – is on a timer, allowing the colors to cycle through. And the kicker is: each of those timers is set to a different clock, meaning that as soon as a color combination is set, it pretty much moves on – never to be seen again.

“I love the idea that the colors can be randomized so that the computer decides what you get to see,” Craig-Martin told me while standing in front of the Goss portrait (the Michael version, unfortunately, was out of commission during a Thursday afternoon media preview. As curator Filippo Tattoni-Marcozzi explained, “Kenny is awake, and Michael is asleep.”).

As Craig-Martin further discussed the idea behind the portraits, a particularly outlandish color combination worked its way onto the screen that stopped him in his tracks.

“I look at that, and I think, ‘I would never have dreamed of doing that’!” he said, clearly pleased with the combo his computer proxy had produced. “It makes you realize how much habit and taste comes into choices. A computer has no habits, and a computer has no taste.”

And just like that, it was gone.

Nasher Sculpture Center Director Jeremy Strick will interview Michael Craig-Martin on Saturday at the Nasher. Click here for more details on the free event.

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