Technology-driven artworks amaze in CJM’s ‘NEAT’

The works in “NEAT: New Experiments in Art and Technology” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum really are neat.

These nifty computer-driven commissioned works in robotics, light, sound and video by nine artists of several generations are moving and mesmerizing, inviting visitors of all ages (kids will really enjoy this show) to experience technology in even newer and greater ways than they encounter in daily life with laptops and smartphones.

On view through January, the show is curated by Renny Pritikin (with assistance from artist Paolo Salvagione), who calls it an ideal fit for the museum, in that new ideas are embraced by mainstream Judaism, and that innovation is part of the dialogue that has defined Judaism through centuries. It’s also a follow up to the 1960s-era “Experiments in Art and Technology,” in which New York artists teamed with scientists at Bell Laboratories to create groundbreaking works and performances.

While programming and seemingly unnatural elements are at the basis of every work in the show, most of the pieces refer to, or echo, something organic or natural. It’s an intriguing combination.

Gabriel Dunne and Vishal K. Dar’s installation “NAAG XY,” which takes up a good portion of a room, looks like a living organism, seemingly pulsing and breathing. It’s actually a sculptural form made of foam and plastic onto which black and white, algorithmically-derived abstractions are projected.

Visitors are drawn to a clamoring noise in a separate area that houses Paul DeMarinis’ wild “Tympanic Alley,” a sound installation made of little aluminum pie plates, suspended from the ceiling, which are struck by metal shards reacting to interruptions in the flow of an electronic signal. It evokes the feeling of a rainstorm, or swarming locusts.

It’s hard to resist Camille Utterback’s interactive video installation “Entangled,” which involves two scrims onto which abstract painted-like images are projected. But when patrons step into a lighted area in front of the scrims, their movement is captured by a camera above, which transmits information to a computer that alters the designs on the scrim. It seems magical. (Dancers from the San Francisco Ballet School will work their magic during a special program on Oct. 23, the first of several accompanying the exhibit.)

Upon entering “NEAT,” artist-engineer Salvagione’s imaginative “Rope Fountain,” created with nylon rope, 3D printed housings, motors, control electronics and code, makes a thrilling and dramatic statement. Salvagione, on hand at the show’s opening, says he attempted to capture the movement and feel of water. He succeeded. These always moving ropes, rising and falling — sometimes in unison, sometimes individually — truly evoke the spirit of nature’s most elemental substance.

IF YOU GO
NEAT: New Experiments in Art and Technology

Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except to 8 p.m. Thursdays and closed Wednesdays; show runs through Jan. 17
Admission: $10 to $12
Contact: (415) 655-7800, www.thecjm.org

Leslie Katz

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