Back from “Pretty Raw”

It was quite an experience participating in setting up the exhibit “Pretty Raw” in Vienna and then attending the opening. One of the challenges was mounting the “Vanitas Window“. We decided to modify one of the existing windows in the exhibit hall (which was actually one floor of a building that became available when a government ministry moved out). We began by building a new wall in front of the existing window with an opening for the Vanitas window. Lights were installed so the  print could be back-lit day or night.

Vanitas window under construction_MG_4092

The actual translucent print was sandwiched between two sheets of plexiglas and mounted in the opening from the rear.

Installing Vanitas_MG_5166By the way, owing to technical constraints, we split the image into a top and bottom half and printed them separately. These two sheets then needed to be aligned on site. Word to the wise: do not do this! Do what ever it takes to print the image on one sheet. It is extremely difficult to trim the sheets so they butt together perfectly. You either get a bright line if there is a gap or a dark line if the sheets overlap. Light escaping between the sheets is more distracting than a dark line, so we made sure there was a consistent, small overlap. You can see the line in the next photo if you look carefully.  Even worse, not even high-end inkjet printers have the precision in their drive to maintain alignment between two sheets printed separately. In fact, the image on one sheet ended up a full 1/4 inch shorter than the image on the other sheet. This makes alignment impossible; we needed to come up with the “least objectionable misalignment”.

Here, Carly Cram, one of the other San Francisco Art Institute exhibitors, admires the final installation, completed moments before the opening!

Carly and thr complete Vanitas Window_MG_5187Carly has a body of work I find particularly intriguing, one example of which was on display at the show.

Carlys Flowers_MG_5181These two images form a series looking at flowers when they are fresh and after they have decayed. (Consistent with the Vanitas theme of this post so far!) However, in no way does this post do the prints justice. These images are created from 25 or more hand-held captures, each of a different, small part of the scene which are then stitched together. In addition to being incredibly detailed, as one would expect from their extreme pixel count, the images challenge the rules of perspective and focus. For example, parts of the image can transition from being in-focus, to out-of-focus, to being back into focus, as you move further and further from the camera. Carly does all the stitching by hand, eschewing the use of panorama stitching software, in order to achieve her artistic intent.

One of the stranger installations, this one by a student at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, consisted of a continuous loop of 16mm film projected on the wall. However the film was made to pass over the bark of a Redwood tree. With each pass, the film would acquire new and unique scratches, so one never saw the same image twice. Eventually the film would be destroyed by its showing, further contributing to the fact that each viewing was unique and ephemeral. The inspiration for the idea was a class trip to Yosemite to photograph in the footsteps of “the Masters”: Ansel Adams, Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge. In fact, that trip was one inspiration for the joint show between the two schools.

Finally opening night was upon us. There was a light dinner for everyone who participated in the creation of the exhibit, followed by the formal opening gala and preview, which over a hundred people attended. And then the students from the University of Applied Arts threw an after-party which lasted until 3:00 AM!

Scene from the opening of Pretty Raw.
Scene from the opening of Pretty Raw.

Below: The organizers of the exhibition, Linda Connor (left) of the San Francisco Art Institute and Gabriele Rothemann of the  University of Applied Arts Vienna relax over an art book and a glass of wine.

Linda and Gabrellie 2014-11-01 18.59.25

 

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