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Painting With Pixels : Artists in Century Gallery's 'Disposition' show in Sylmar infuse their technology-driven artwork with creativity and plenty of human spirit.

May 21, 1993|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times.

In our media-oriented city, we are constantly bombarded by visual matter cajoling us to think or act in certain ways. With so much competition, it often takes something unusually stim ulating to really capture our attention.

The work of four artists on view in the show "Disposition" at Century Gallery in Sylmar commands our regard precisely because it does not preach or propagandize. Instead, it allows viewers to join their creators in uncommon visual explorations and to make their own personal responses to them.

At first glance, JonMarc Edwards' paintings appear to be intricate patterns made from large letters of the alphabet. Further contemplation, readily encouraged by these engaging patterns, reveals that they are not just letters, but words to be deciphered.

There are six basic rules to decoding the patterns into words, Edwards said, but he did not want to disclose them, preferring to let viewers discover them on their own. The words are in the form of Haiku poems (three divisions consisting of five, seven, and five syllables respectively) including: "Thunderstorm and rain under covers lovers sleep weather pleasure pain." "You are the figure in landscape viewing still life pictures abstractly." "I like looking at them just as formal patterns, but I also try to communicate with a narrative," Edwards said. "When enlarged, words become not just larger symbols but a labyrinth of meaning in which the viewer can meander."

Edwards has collaborated with a translator to translate "You are the figure . . . " into eight languages. "In Korean, it looks just like a landscape," he said.

Eudice Feder generates her colorful geometric landscapes from computer programs she has written. She first saw a computer art demonstration in 1978 at Cal State Northridge, where she was working on her master's degree.

"I thought, 'God, the artwork is terrible, but the technology is so intriguing,' " she said.

After taking a course in computer graphics--which she has been teaching at CSUN since 1980--she began to write programs that instruct the computer on such things as where to stop and start a line and how thick to make it.

Those programs control four robotic pens to create her visions of such scenes as "Southern Lights" and a "Salmon Run." She had attempted unsuccessfully to make similar linear compositions with a mechanical drawing pen about 40 years earlier when she studied art with Moholy-Nagy at his New Bauhaus school in Chicago.

"Can you imagine my amazement when I now had the means to do it," said Feder, 74. "I am fascinated by the relationship between a program and a visual result that is related to the world of physics and the world I see."

Tony Longson uses a computer to design his three-dimensional drawings that convey sensations of outer space. Consisting of four layers of screen prints on Plexiglas against a black background, all the layers within a work hold the same mesmerizing non-representational patterns, but each succeeding one has been rotated 90 degrees.

These constructions are "vehicles to invoke visual processes within you," he said. Although he wants them to be enticing to look at, Longson said he also tries to make works that viewers will forget when they leave the gallery. "The physical experience of looking at them is really the important thing. The spectator is a part of the work."

Corinne Whitaker was a fine-art photographer in 1981 when she encountered Apple computers, and was intrigued, she said, by the opportunity they offered to "explore inner space, not outer space."

Fascinated by inscriptions on ancient tablets, she has incorporated their symbols into a cacophony of images, all scanned into or created on computer to form in her vibrantly colored, energetic compositions. They have been realized in large Cibachrome prints.

"I'm using the newest technology to get back in touch with our roots," she said. "Color is important to me--it's like being drunk with color when you work with it."

Whitaker compares creating art with a computer to viewing things from outer space, she said. "There is no up, no down, no right, no left. There are no rules to follow. It's unchartered territory."

"This show speaks of human potential. It proves that people can be inventive and creative in a positive manner," said gallery director Lee Musgrave. "Artists take something usually used for commercial purposes and make something that's full of the human spirit."

Where and When What: "Disposition," an exhibit of work by four artists. Location: Century Gallery, 13000 Sayre St., Sylmar. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays through May 28. Call: (818) 362-3220.

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