Sacramento’s cultural landscape is often thought to be flat as the surrounding farmland, but a part of it recently underwent a virtual remodeling that, at least temporarily, alters some of those contours. It arrived in the form of a “gallery” of augmented reality (AR) sculptures that spans 12 blocks of Broadway, a struggling thoroughfare that was once the heart of the city’s nightlife and, most notably, the landmark birth spot of the once-mighty Tower Records. Besides shining much-needed light on this corridor and its history, the show, Broadway Augmented, gives the public a real taste of the technology’s artistic potential.
Here, 11 artists, some with new media backgrounds, most without, create virtual sculptures that range from the serene to the surreal, the celebratory to the subversive. Curators Shelly Willis, director of Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, and Rachel Clarke, professor of new media at CSU Sacramento, in partnership with the Greater Broadway District and with a grant from the NEA, developed this show to give a boost to this ailing corridor. Artists flew in to tour the street and select locations for their work. Those without digital 3D expertise worked with student fabricators to create their sculptures. Not surprisingly, the experienced digital artists manage the most daring pieces.
To view these works at an optimal scale, it’s best to bring a tablet or borrow an iPad on a Saturday from the exhibition’s headquarters, located at Sacramento Republic FC on 17th street. There, you’ll find a concurrent show called Broadway Re-imagined, built on the same premise as the AR offering. Mark Lanning Jr.’s work is the reason to see this show within a show: his 44 photographs of people and locations from along Broadway ask how this dilapidation, the wearying of the joints of our public lives and ourselves, was ever allowed to progress so far.