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Nate Boyce @ YBCA

Polyscroll II, 2014, HD video
 
Nate Boyce’s new work, a mixture of video and sculpture, raises phenomenological questions by subjecting real and virtual objects to a battery of transformations.  It happens through a process the artist calls “unhinged morphogenesis.”  When you see the show, Polyscroll — part of the series Control: Technology and Culture curated by Ceci Moss – you’ll understand exactly what that means.  Briefly: Objects change identity with startling speed and fluidity, breaking down our ability to apprehend anything with clarity or certainty. 
 
The show’s main attractions – the pollyscrolls — are three seamlessly looping 5-minute videos displayed on LCD monitors, hung portrait-style to resemble 5-foot tall paintings. They reference traditional media with abstract paint blotches and animated pencil lines.  To these Boyce adds 3D computer generated (CG) “objects” and an ever-present scrolling effect.  It moves screen images as an industrial conveyor would — pushing sheets of “canvas,” oozing “paint” or machine-made metal “trinkets” at a quick, inhuman pace.  By overlapping opposing images and shifting between fast-flickering animations and slow, languid rolls, Boyce creates work that is hypnotic and suspenseful.
 
Polyscroll (Daylight), 2014, HD video

Portions of the polyscrolls reference paint and canvas in a way that superficially resembles Abstract Expressionism (de Kooning and Frankenthaler in particular); while the animations within them, with their fleeting lines, highlight the ambiguity of authorship.  Combined, these divergent forces can be powerful.  Pollyscroll III, for example,has long passages featuring chalk-like marks (red, white and black) that beat in rhythms resembling those of muscle contractions.  The organ-like conglomerations dip in and out of visibility, sliding behind opaque white sheets that roll and fold, only to reveal new sets of pulsing red muscles or glistening “bone” forms.  The effect is corporeal, like seeing an animal from the inside out under clinical light. 

Polyscroll (daylight) is more unabashedly digital, using pixelation and TV static effects to mark transitions from one scrolling “pane” of imagery to another.  Boyce uses flatness dramatically, creating featureless expanses of flickering pencil marks that suddenly open with jagged, torn paper edges into deep, layered valleys of virtual space.  Often the canvas-like flat areas are twisted and tugged at by 3D CG sculptures that resemble carved bone or strange metal jewelry.  These highly polished interlopers compound our sense of spatial confusion and obscure the technological means by which it is regulated.  Boyce uses this mish-mash of illusionistic space and computational simulation to shine light on the frenetic contemporary mind, insistently tugged between urban cityscapes, natural spaces and electronic device prompts.
 
By contrast, the sculpture in the exhibit underwhelms. Suspension Screen (Copper) and Suspension Screen (Cryo), for example, consist of two metal grates with 3D prints jammed into the holes of the grates.  Each, mounted intriguingly on aluminum feet, stands about four feet high, dwarfed by the architecture of the gallery.  Had Boyce simply printed and mounted onto the grates the same 3D objects he used in the videos, the results might be something akin to Robert Ortbals morphing, material-centric sculptures, rather than the staid, polished off-the-shelf hardware we see here. 
 
Materiality may not be Boyce’s forte, but the virtual reincarnation of it most assuredly is. 
– MIKKO LAUTAMO
 
Nate Boyce: “Polyscroll” @ Yerba Buena Center for the Arts through April 5, 2015.
 
About the Author:
Mikko Lautamo is an artist living and working in Sacramento.  His work uses programming to create never-repeating loops of digital animations based on social systems, biological entities and interactions.  His work has been exhibited at the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento and at Axis Gallery and online.

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