Inspired by Burchfield
by Jack Foran
Emil Schult's work, and works by his students on display at Burchfield Penney
Dual installations by multimedia artist Emil Schult at the Burchfield Penney gallery honor painter Charles Burchfield and musician Charles Ives in multimedia ways. Schult is a musician, painter, computer technologist, among assorted other categories. He has made art for and played in performance with the German new music group Kraftwerk.
The Burchfield homage segment-—in complementary conjunction with the gallery current exhibit on Charles Burchfield, on aural synesthesic effects in his watercolors—consists of visual works in a novel painterly technique Schult invented called reverse glass painting that attempt to “analyze the structural and rhythmic elements” of some of Burchfield’s paintings.
The reverse glass paintings are not by Schult himself—he has reverse glass paintings of his own in the other segment—but by some of his students at Alfred University. The reverse glass painting technique is not well explained in the exhibit, but each student was given a 16 x 32 inch print of a Charles Burchfield painting and a large piece of plexiglass, and the assignment was “to create a simplified version of the original painting...”
The student works are basically abstracts of Burchfield’s basically representational works with abstraction elements. Such as vibrational lines (like visible wave forms, like waves in water) to represent sound waves around telephone line wires (which noticeably vibrate in the wind and make an audible sound, much like an Aeolian harp), or represent bird or insect sounds (audible but invisible vibrations), or represent invisible and inaudible vitalist emanations (but discernible apparently by the artist) from living or once living matter. Trees and telephone poles alike. Or such as his abstract cricket insect forms—jagged wave forms, twice up and down—to represent the brief strident chirp of the cricket.
In her reverse glass version of a portion of Burchfield’s Insect Chorus, student Olivia Juarez translates the cricket form into a straw pile of hatch marks, a bamboo sticks jumble with a vaguely Chinese calligraphy look. Milo Harper interprets Orion in December in a way a little reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Isabel Bowser interprets another portion of Insect Chorus as red and silver flame form pyrotechnics. Aodi Lange’s version of Sunrise in the Forest is an epiphany jumble of Matissean large color blocks, darkish below, bright above.
The other installation, in the gallery Project Room, is entirely Schult’s work, including reverse glass paintings, some sculptural pieces, and the centerpiece of the installation, a movie with computer-generated imagery and a sound track of Schult’s recomposition of music by Charles Ives, possibly his piece in reference to New England Transcendentalist sages Emerson and Thoreau, The Unanswered Question. The movie is called Unanswered Questions, and amid futuristic imagery—robotic-looking human figures and symmetrical and a-symmetrical abstract changing patterns—asks in English and Chinese questions such as: Who am I? What am I? What was I in the past? Will I die? Shall I exist in the future? What is eternity?
Schult said he made the work also in Chinese because the Chinese are “the largest [ethnic and language] group in the world,” and he wanted to “share my work with them.” Potential audience.
Schult’s framed art includes interpretive portraits of some icon figures in areas of electronics and electronic arts, the likes of composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, and inventors of electronic musical instruments Harald Bode (Melodium, Melochord, et al., 1930s, 1940s) and Robert Moog (Moog Synthesizer, 1960s). Also, some mandala-like computer chip paintings. One that looks like an early version chip—relatively simple and symmetrical—duplicated as a painting and shallow-relief sculpture. Another more elaborate, called Human Rights Charta. A kind of computer chip world sociogram.
Why did he do it all? “In my art,” he says, “I wanted to see things I have never seen before.”
The Emil Schult installations continue through September 27. The Charles Burchfield synesthesia aural effects exhibit continues through August 23.blog comments powered by Disqus
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