Computer Generation

Courtesy of antena Gallery

Almost completely empty of artwork, Pilsen’s antena Gallery looks as though it were undergoing development for a future exhibit. Only three paintings and a framed collection of digital media pieces hang from the gallery’s white walls, introducing the exhibit’s main feature: on a lone flat-screen television set situated near the back wall, a flurry of colorful blobs, zigzags, and ripples follow one after the other, injecting life into the spacious, near-empty room. Explosions of pinks and blues smooth the transitions between each segment,  creating an entertaining spectacle symptomatic of the engaging project PaintFX.

Produced by five computer and software artists, PaintFX opened two weeks ago on Feburary 18. Under antena’s roof, Jon Rafman, Parker Ito, Micah Schippa, Tabor Robak, and John Transue use their own antennae — their creative antennae — to facilitate art’s evolution into a digital age. Combining pieces on their blog sites, Rafman, Ito, Schippa, Robak, and Transue demonstrate computer software’s artistic potential with the dexterity and precision of their every mark. Sweeping back and forth with their mouses, the five artists refine brush strokes and paint splatters until their figures almost seem to pop out from the screen and pull the viewer in. Every decision made by the artists reflects their determination to convince their audience that art has entered a digital age.

With vivid splashes of color, the PaintFX creators expose the relatively new role of computers in the modern artistic process. Even though none of the artists reveal which portion of the presentation is theirs, different tastes for distinct patterns and visual effects betray individual contributions and uncover the ability of computers to capture individual style. The PaintFX artists infuse their artwork with character and personality by showcasing their skills one at a time, fighting against what many consider the impersonal nature of the computer. While colorful zigzags establish themselves as the primary artistic motif, weaving in and out of the presentation, each segment of the short movie can still be distinguished from the others. For instance, the first minute or so of the show, the first artist’s handiwork, follows an arrangement of curious looking blobs as they divide and reunite in front of a busy background with more brush strokes than can be counted. Gradually, the blobs melt into a sequence, reminiscent of water — the work of artist number two. Chrome droplets and splashes decorate the screen, creating a serene effect that contrasts with the blob and explosion procession of before. As the movie continues to play, the third artist’s hand guides the movie so that the droplets solidify into snow that drifts downwards before sharp, solid rectangles suddenly materialize.

Though it is not the first exhibit to explore computer art, PaintFX nonetheless pioneers a trend characterized by the rise of new media in the 21st Century. By pooling their efforts together, Rafman, Ito, Schippa, Robak, and Transue effectively manage to encourage hand-in-hand cooperation between technology and art, proving that a combination of the two promises a dimension of art that is yet to be fully explored by artist and audience. In fact, PaintFX’s fascination with digital media has impacted the art scene across the nation, increasing the demand for technological art, as evidenced by a New York gallery’s request to showcase PaintFX once its time in Chicago’s antena Gallery comes to an end. PaintFX’s migration to other cities exemplifies the growing reach of digital art today. From the South Side to New York and beyond — who knows what the future of computer software art holds.

antena, 1756 S Laflin St. Through March 19. Hours by appointment. (773)340-3516.