Getting in Touch with the Inner Geek Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 17 September 2002 18:00
wetware /wet’wâr’/ n. [perhaps from the novels of Rudy Rucker or Stanislav Lem] 1. The human nervous system, as opposed to computer hardware or software. 2. Human beings (programmers, operators, administrators) attached to a computer system, as opposed to the system’s hardware or software.

Terry Rathje taught me something with this exhibition: the definition of “wetware” and why he used “moist” as one of the adjectives in the title of the new group exhibition Soft & Moist Digital & Traditional at MidCoast Gallery West in The District of Rock Island. Not one of the 11 artists in the show is intimidated by the technology they use to create their images. The use of technology is not apparent in any of the works, and as a result the pieces all stand on their own as expressive images.

Rathje’s statement also sums up his criteria for selecting artists to include in this exhibition: “What sets these artists apart is that they are all exemplified by an attitude of ‘Why would I not want to consider using every possible tool at my disposal?’ and ‘I don’t care if this tool is based on mathematical calculations; I’m still going to learn it.’ I have also found it to be generally true that it is much easier to teach technology to an artist than it is to teach a computer geek to make art. The strange part is that all of the artists … have had to take on a little geekinesss themselves to be able to make art with a computer. It happens so subtly. One day you’re talking about composition, and the next you’re talking about who has the best compression algorhythm.”

Susan Czechowski’s Wonderpanties is a great silkscreen with a sense of humor. The Wonder Woman-like costume, with a red star over the left breast and a white tassel hanging from the middle of the star, is reproduced as if hung on a hanger in the middle of the frame. It should be erotic, but it is patriotic without being serious, and silly without being disrespectful.

Bruce Walters has a digital print titled 9/12, showing the road forward with an American flag image superimposed against the sky with some paint strokes over the field of stars extending into the stripes. The flag is hung improperly, with the field of stars to the viewer’s right. It’s not a pretty picture, but it is a good work of art: The outlook on September 12, 2001, was not pretty, either.

Jeremy Bessoff has three works with a unique style for this show, all black and white, using posterized photographic-imaged figures displayed on a masonite surface texturized with brush strokes. They have the low-tech finish of a painting with the high-tech imaging of posterized photographs, and that juxtaposition makes for pleasing images.

Rathje has included his digital photo Cubus, which won second place at the 26th Annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition. The work is still excellent. To repeat from our April review, the photo is a manipulated inkjet print on a rusting-metal canvas. The bus image is bent and gives one an unnerving sense of spatial warp. A glance at this artwork might make it seem like nothing special, but a further look reveals the warping of the bus, the rusting of the canvas, the rusting of the bus, and the way the image and media work together seamlessly.

Rathje also has a second work in the show, Strange Matter. It resembles a futuristic mushroom cloud or water tower. The colors and shapes are pleasing with an industrial undertone, but the disturbing latent image of a mushroom cloud lingers.

The prices of the artwork in the show are very reasonable – all $800 or less, with most in the $150 to $250 range.

Even though Mark Koster’s Blue Lady sculpture is not in the show, his four sculptures on sale at the adjoining ArtFX gallery are worthy of note. Mark takes store mannequins and attaches tile and mirror chips to enhance the contours of the body. The sculptures caught my eye and are sensual even though the media (tile and mirrors cut in geometric shapes) is hard-edged.

Other artists in Rathje’s show are Eric Hadley, Joe Kelley, Bill Howard, Deborah Wood, Mark Fowler, Lane Hall, and Lisa Moline. Although I don’t deal with each individually, all the works in this show are of very high quality, largely because of Terry Rathje’s excellent curating. As wetware, we can appreciate the images that the hardware and software make possible through the efforts of artistic moistware.
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