OFFLINE: Group Show at Love's Hall [Review]
For a one-night event, OFFLINE might have been nestled into one of the best-suited exhibition spaces in Chattanooga. Love’s Hall was between tenants during opening weekend, so OFFLINE spread out into three old whitewashed, high ceilinged rooms for a multidisciplinarian meditation on the impact of the internet in contemporary art. The show consisted of seven visual artists (Mercedes Llanos, Nate Giordano, Alecia Vera Buckles, Laura Little, Mamie Bivin, Brianna Bass, and Noah Kocher), incorporating DJ/designer Shoey Russell, and poetry performance by Ben Van Winkle. With an abundance of handmade artist’s miniatures (“Swag”), music, booze, and energetic conversation aflow, attendees will be making space in their homes and minds for the new and important works exhibited.
Ann Marie Miller, a UT Chattanooga BFA graduate and first-time curator, orchestrated the event by seamlessly pulling participating artists together. Extensive interactive branding generated the enthusiasm needed to draw attendees from all corners of the Chattanooga creative scene. The resulting energy made OFFLINE feel more like an ongoing collective than an isolated venue takeover.
The works featured in OFFLINE were unified by a preoccupation with the new impacts of internet culture and the digital world on contemporary art. They approach all facets of the online phenomena, ranging from meditations on social connectivity, new tools for generating forms, a new synthesis of rapid-fire images, and new colors/mark-making that come from a familiarity with pixellation & digital games.
The internet has drawn the entire population into the art world, shattering the esoteric posturing brought on by centuries of elitist patronage. Mercedes Llanos utilized this openness in her project, “#Selfie” which turns social media’s endless catalog of self portraiture on its head. Llanos explores the way selfies originate from a search for attention, a feeling that being seen makes one real. She searches the hashtag “selfie” in Instagram to find the subjects of her small, square oil paintings. The resulting portraits are energetic and colorful, undermining “like”-worthy perfection. The painted faces are not smooth or symmetrical, but alive, dynamic, counterbalancing the subject's request for ephemeral affection with a permanent object. Mercedes photographs the finished painting and tags the subject in the image.
Similarly, Laura Little’s new paintings celebrate the combustion of outer, randomly generated images, and inner dialogues. Sacred moments are embedded and disguised in an outpouring of disorienting contexts. She starts with a framework of empty spaces, and gets to work searching for imagery on the internet. Egyptian pyramids, baseball, her dog, robot girls, and kimono patterns crystallize in Laura’s ongoing mastery of materiality.
Alecia Vera Buckles also taps into unexpected juxtapositions of form and pattern with her untitled dollhouse, which debuted for the first time at OFFLINE. It’s hard to tell whether detail or overall structure takes precedence in her work, as both elements are treated with joyful attention. Buckles’ dollhouse is heavily inspired by a childlike sense of creative play, and she accordingly utilizes digital programs made for such. Sims and House Builder are her go-to practice yards for building imaginary spaces. By making these methods concrete, Buckles precipitates the intangible into the analog.
As a new sense of ephemeral play becomes available with the advent of digital making, artists harness formlessness, and create stabilizing matrices in response. Mamie Bivins' work has begun to transition from shadowy, poetic memory-based figures, to a new collection of geode/agate-like mandala forms composed of entropic paint rings and various glitters. The luminosity of the screen bearing referential imagery leads artists to make work wherein in light is made stone.
Nate Giordano's recent portraits utilize renaissance-style symbology to elevate local creators. By incorporating halos into carefully painted homages, Nate applies divinity to his subjects, recalling portraits by Kehinde Wiley, to elevate those who he sees as harbingers of a new Renaissance.
In keeping with his commitment to tap into nearby spheres of tangible talent, Nate set up three large blank panels during OFFLINE, to welcome the audience into a process of artmaking. Its layers became a palimpsest collage of ideas and creative extroversion. These group paintings are destined for a Chattanooga musicians’ collective that houses up to 8 audio artists at a time.
Artists are tapping into a new Pointillism offered by the Internet; a way of seeing in which images are borrowed and recontextualized, overlapped and bizarrely juxtaposed with iconoclastic irreverence. Nate’s video collage "INFINITY" was composed of excerpts from online videos, as well as vignettes made in a 3D rendering program. Clips from popular media interspersed with Giordano's psychic computer-generated forms create a strange otherworldliness and dream-like universality.
We have a new digital source for painting which is purely visual. Pixels, paint programs, information glitches are all embedded in the new vocabulary of the abstract artist. Noah Kocher and Brianna Bass are both utilizing these components in paintings that seem alive with light, and aim to fool the viewer into questioning the materiality of the work itself. Kocher’s work incorporates luminous gradients, beneath unified marks that dance across the picture plane to create a static, which implies pattern but does not allow itself to be deciphered.
Bass’s work is a cacophonic multi-layering of dashes and pixels atop gradients, which aim to destabilize each individual mark. She creates paintings almost algorithmically, setting out with each layer with a simple rule, such as “start with blue, end with pink.” Her works are, in this way, almost robotic and unaffected, AI not quite tapped into the spirit.
OFFLINE was a full spectrum rumination on the way art is now embedded in the internet, and the internet in art. A new Impressionism is revealed, as if caverns of unseen images are laid by in a matrix of unknown substance, ready to crystalize just beneath our consciousness. The artists seek the physicality of the web, to represent the online phenomenon and its grounding by utilizing form and color, social change, and the availability of new tools for digital work.
Ann Marie Miller’s curatorial work is far from over. She says that she would love to repeat the OFFLINE project in different regions. Her next steps will be in Denver Colorado, where she will employ her Fine Arts degree and training in Psychology to mentor youths with difficult backgrounds. She plans to fully embed herself within the art community in Denver, and seek her Masters in Art Therapy.