Barry Anderson: Oblique Phases
Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles
through June 22, 2019
Written by Shana Nys Dambrot
Video and digital animations by Barry Anderson are both classical and eccentric in the genre, occupying a liminal place in the video art continuum that is neither entirely abstract nor fully narrative. Primarily engaged with foundational issues of perception and social information, while also telling a story of process and creative gesture, they are soothing and hypnotic, curious and full of rushing currents of detail. They never stop moving; the geometric flow of their smoothly choreographed origami unfurl on an endless loop of nested time and imaginary space, sometimes with a soundtrack.
The new digital works across projected, mounted-monitor, and sculptural formats on display in Oblique Phases at Walter Maciel Gallery, experiment with their form and in one instance with collaboration, but at the same time fall mainly within the planes of Anderson’s central ongoing series — The Janus Restraint, and Fragments of Space. The former is represented by one large-scale work, “Personaphase ” in which an entire wall flutters with video “tiles” which flip and morph and periodically resolve into portraits of American young people. It’s both a composite and a monument to individuality. Is there such a thing as the singular collective, or the generational self which this work imagines? If so, it will be a post-digital existentialism, and it’s far from clear whether it will be a utopia or something else entirely.
The works from Fragments of Space manifest in multiple formats, both projected and sculptural. The most abstract and psychedelic, in the manner of visual music, is “[Pyralax]” which seems to be following an energetic beat of its own ordinance. The largest, a massive projection titled “Oblique Phases” is equally candid in its use of software and coding technology to generate its mesmerizing, mirrored algorithms. Images are fragmented and refracted and reformed, and this procession pulses and morphs in an eerily, almost uncomfortably organic way, despite the artificiality.
A pair of triangular sculptures on pedestals, not unlike the setup of substantial tablet computers, are the “Babel” and “Babel Heights” works, which offer endless-seeming scrolls of imagery within confined, small-scale spaces. One is abstract like a neverending strand of robot DNA, geometric and architectural, chromatic and futuristic; and the other is a string theory saga of nested objects and familiar images that flirts with classic surrealism — a brain, a chair, a statue, food, toys. Though both are relatively short loops of about three minutes each, they give a sense of infinite length, because of how the brain processes the information they contain. Viewers experience moments of recognition as loops repeat, but without an enduring, unblinking attention, things elide, and when they return, they are new. This could go on for a while.
In addition to the video animations, there’s a pair of witty wall works entitled “1969 Side A” and “1969 Side B” wherein each piece is a foot-square box with “1969” etched into one mirrored side. The speakers play a soundtrack made by layering the A- and B-Side songs off every album released in 1969, the year Anderson was born — at least those which he currently owns. Besides the noise-core art-rock effect of evocative almost-music, their inclusion provides an ambient score to the entire installation, which is especially in tune, so to speak, with the collaborative work “Lucite Plains [Phase 1]” which Anderson worked on with artist Ricky Allman. (Both men live in Kansas City, MO.) There is something about the clinical, spaceship-like interior space which builds and unfolds and collapses into itself, its transparent elements creating a symphonic kinetic drawing punctuated by active colors, which is both delirious and sci-fi, and the hum of the speakers as the perfect stand in for the hum of its engines.