Alberto Gaitán’s Briliant Colorfield “Remembrancer”

This spring and summer, DC-area art galleries, museums, and art orgs are celebrating the Color Field Movement of the ’50s and ’60s (think: Motherwell, Rothko, Stella), and specifically, the Washington Color School (Gene Davis, Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis), which put DC on the significant art movements map. As part of this celebration, the wonderful Curator’s Office micro-gallery is showing an amazing installation piece by one of Street Tech’s own, Alberto Gaitán.

The piece, called Remembrancer, consists of three net-connected robot painters. As data feeds — one local, one national, and one global — pour into the gallery, they’re transposed into art, as paint is deposited onto three monochromatic panels, and into dynamic musical compositions, via three wall-mounted speakers.

The gallery catalog sheet describes some of the ideas behind Remembrancer:

Remembrancer confronts the loss inherent in transformation, the distortions introduced by the medium onto which–and the assumptions in effect when–memory is transcribed, the inevitable simplification of phenomena that accompanies acts of observation, and the spacial, temporal and cultural resonance of events.

That latter bit of “spacial, temporal and cultural resonance of events” was driven home when the Virgina Tech killings happened two days after the show’s opening. Ominously, the local canvas is colored red. Overwhelmed by data traffic on that day, it squeezed out two guillotine-like triangles, dripping gore. Perhaps a happier “accident” can be found on the blue, national, panel where its proximity to the gallery’s air conditioning vent has made all of the paint deposits shiver nervously on their way down.

For the geek artists (and engineers) in the audience, the mechanisms that render the art might be as interesting, and maybe as poignant, as the art itself. Alberto used the Make Controller, an iconic object of the current anyone-can-play high-tech/DIY craze, “canvases” gridded off like geeky graph paper, beautifully printed on Komatex/Sintra, an expanded PVC material popular in robotics, peristaltic pumps that look like they were lifted from an OR, and paint-laden “carboys” suspended from the ceiling, that look like they might be from the recovery room. Gorgeous little robot carts complete the tech, with precision-machined gears and rack and pinion drive mechanics, stepper motors, and segmented cable guides that look both serpentine and like something from a LEGO Mindstorms set. As the gallery’s curator, Andrea Pollan, so perfectly put it: It’s “Frankenstein lab meets Walter Reed hospital room.”

The robots lay down their paint nozzles at the end of this week. The completed work will be up until May 26th. If you’re in DC, you should definitely stop by and see it. The Curator’s Office is at 1515 14th St. NW.

Read the Washington Post review here.
Read the WP Express piece here.
Alberto’s Remembrancer Flickr set can be found here.
Find out more about the ColorField.remix here.
After the jump, see more pics of the piece, including the equipment table and the Breadboard (with call outs). The Breadboard, the installation’s control electronics, was built on an actual breadboard ($2 from Target).