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ADN Review for Miho Aoki’s MTS Gallery exhibit

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UAF Professor’s Work Laced with Impersonal Imagery

COMPUTER: Opportunities for viewer reflection go unrealized in Miho Aoki’s exhibit.

Daily News correspondent

Published: July 28th, 2008 12:12 AM
Last Modified: July 28th, 2008 02:16 AM

We live in an increasingly impersonal world. When we need help, we get voice recordings. In war, we can pinpoint targets via orbiting satellites and obliterate people with long-range missiles. Our homes are photographed from the air and posted on Web sites. Bankers privately rate our credibility. Servers target us for “pop-ups” based upon how we use the Net. Doctored photographs distort reality.

In art, computer-generated graphics have enabled us to replace craft with technology. Though the effects are grand and the science astounding, one is often left with a sense of disconnect: Who is that person behind the mouse? What do they feel? How much of what we see was consciously created, and how much was the result of pure chance?

There are art photographers who manage to transcend the medium and give the viewer personal revelations or insights into our collective humanity — not just by the manipulation of the media but through the communication of ideas. Truth may be hard to decipher in an abstract expressionist painting or a minimalist sculpture, as well. But to what degree can the arts be reduced to purely mechanical/electrical forms and still retain some element of humanity?

Miho Aoki, associate professor of computer art at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, writes in her artist statement that the impetus for her work is the embodiment of culture through language. In her show “Visions,” she attempts to examine the differences between various cultures as represented by differences in language.

Yet the images in her drawings and computer prints are impersonal. Human form is graphically represented but dehumanized. Cell-like forms replace faces. Limbs are transformed into plants or DNA. Fingers of a hand become rolled papers. Animals, as well, become vessels. A cat becomes a pipeline.

In her 10 ink drawings, the figures are flat or in silhouette. All context is eliminated. Bulbous forms replace heads. The sumi inks are applied like markers, consciously void of style. The drawings are not compositional. They simply fill the page — black on white — or are ordered.

In the works “Summer Sky,” “Autumn Sky” and “Northern Sky,” the UltraChrome prints are 3-D computer-generated images based on the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Star Catalog. The three are the largest pieces in the show and are the most striking. They have a Japanese anime quality to them, exemplified in the uniform cartoon line and pastel color scheme.

“Summer Sky” seems oceanic. Organic or celestial forms morph into lined, mechanical fractals that float and drift into space. The rigid nature of the objects is at least partially the result of the limitations of computer graphic imaging.

The computer-derived “Balloons” depicts blue-green figures floating in space or underwater. Blimplike forms replace the heads. All the figures are uniform, their arms and legs outstretched as if the figures have drowned.

The 33 pieces in the show were done between 2001 and 2008. Like most large shows, it might have been better if tighter, perhaps focusing on drawing or digital imagery or by offering the most recent work.

The opportunities to explore semiotics through the exhibition were not realized. The questions posed by the artist regarding language and culture are somewhat obscured by the mechanics of production. Her use of a red stamp in the wood blocks of antiquity and calligraphy and the selection of particular icons such as vessels suggest there is much more to consider in her background.

It’s a strong and professional show, amply demonstrative of the artist’s technical skill at using a computer to make art. But art needs to be more than gimmickry. Even the term “computer-generated” suggests a particular disconnect between what the artist might have envisioned and what was ultimately produced.

Don Decker is an Anchorage artist, teacher and writer.

VISIONS, WORK BY MIHO AOKI, will be on display through Aug. 9 at the MTS Gallery, 3142 Mountain View Drive. (274-0156, http://www.mtsgallery.wordpress.com)

Original story found at – http://www.adn.com/arts/story/476404.html
Come and see the show at the MTS Gallery! Click above for hours and come to the event August 1st!


Written by mtsgallery

August 1, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. As usual Don Decker has let his lack of experience color his opinion. Instead of trying to explain a technique (or dump on it) showing his woeful lack of knowledge on the subject, he should stick to describing instead of pontificating.

    I agree that Aoki’s artist statement didn’t support the work in the show (except maybe in the broadest sense), but to call her work dehumanized and disconnected grossly misses the point of her work.

    To also suggest that “computer generated” is some how equitable to random or chance creation just shows how uneducated Decker is in the medium. Seems luddites like this ridicule what they don’t understand: “a computer was used to make this art… it must be purely mechanical, non-creative… dehumanized.”

    Aoki’s work is obviously well thought out and conceived. You can’t just punch a button and expect the computer to make art. It doesn’t work that way. Every angle, surface, transparency, and placement has to be thought out in advance. So, where the hell does he come up with computer generated suggesting a “disconnect between what the artist might have envisioned and what was ultimately produced.”? I would hazard that a drawing or painting has more chance involved in its making than Aoki’s work.

    As usual Decker shows his inability to a effectively and insightfully give us any real evaluation on exhibitions in Anchorage.

    Johnny Reb

    August 4, 2008 at 10:58 pm

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