Walking into Casey Reas’ Linear Perspective at Charlie James Gallery is like stepping into a time machine and traveling back to the not-so-distant past, when Windows 95 screensaver played endlessly on virtually all personal computers while certain Japanese arcade video games spoke broken English. Eight moving images, rendered in realtime by codes and algorithms developed by Reas, are both a nod to the digital cultures of the bygone eras and a wink at the future of visual art in the digital domain.
Social media as it prevails today is still a young species, coming into existence only after the turn of this millennia. Nonetheless, it has grown fast and massive. Arguably, even mass media now belongs under the ever increasing umbrella of the social media, which is simultaneously hyperlocal and global. Reas sources specific materials for his work from this vast depository.
Reas’ All Your Face Are Belong to Us series (titled after the video game Zero Wing) questions the ownership of digitized properties. Three smaller screens montage together three unique facial identities, each from 1,000 public profile pictures of the artist’s Twitter followers. In the back gallery, two horizontally fixed monitors arrange the psychedelic rectangular grids resembling the sea of 8-bit video game sprites. Incomprehensible fields of visual noise are in actuality local KTTV programs and Adventure Time found on YouTube. Seemingly infinite varieties of flashing, dashing color structures interrogate the meaning of mass media contents as well as its ephemeral nature — all the while perplexing pitches hum and bellow over the headphone.
For the projected Linear Perspective, a namesake for the exhibition, along with two other vertically installed displays, Reas takes above-the-fold photographs from the New York Times website. His codes draw each of these images across the black, blank screen at various diagonal angles by skewing, warping, and stretching the pictures, transforming them into abstract digital paint. Fred Tomaselli has once collected the same newspaper’s front pages for the series of intricate collages titled the Times. Laboriously constructed designs are placed over the yellowing pages. Though intriguingly meticulous, their purpose is elusive at best. On the contrary, the cultural critique imbued in Reas’ moving paintings is easy to observe.
If the New York Times is still considered to be the reputable authority in news reporting, discussing the most important and relevant stories of the day, then it can also be argued that the images they publish are equally significant and pertinent. Under this scenario, Reas’ video painting aims to create the singular pictorial representation of the nation’s, if not the world’s, zeitgeist.
Not surprisingly, however, the dramatic distortion and the countless layering processes give rise to something that is cohesive yet unintelligible instead. As the slow moving voluptuous strokes become increasingly abstract, complex, and dense, obliterating the negative void, what remains on the surface is a pure visual sensation that leads to pleasure. After all these years, there is finally a screensaver worth savoring.
Casey Reas’ Linear Perspective is on view at Charlie James Gallery through October 17, 2015. It’s a STAY-FOR-A-WHILE.
All images courtesy of Charlie James Gallery. Photos by Michael Underwood (underwoodpix.com).