Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Seeing Double (again)

Speaking of twins and optical illusions...What a wonderful and coincidental day! I'd like to long-windedly share. I took my lunch break in Millennium Park---beautiful weather, lots of tourists to watch, even an orchestra playing in the background.

A curious project was underway near the "Bean." Trevor and Ryan Oakes, from New York, began an architectural study of the skyline, including the ever-so-challenging sphere-ized reflection in the Bean. It was funny, because I had just taken my class out (last week) to do our own architectural studies after a brief lesson in linear perspective. But this was no ordinary architectural drawing. It involved a quirky contraption, one that held the artist's head in place while drawing on a concave paper surface attached to a metal grid, all grounded by tripod legs. After watching a moment, non-verballing communicating interest and confusion, Ryan explained what was going on. It's an optical trick!

The distance and framework is calculated, the brain and the eye in an elusive relationship. You know how when you put your hand in front of you but focus on the background, you can seemingly look through it? It's a similar concept to the illusion of 3D pictures in early Stereoscopes (like my grandpa used to have), utilizing two images measured just slightly off. So...Trevor, the pen hand, has the page and "object of view" set up so that he sees both at the same time, thereby simply tracing the image on the paper. Awesome, huh?!? Unlike our practice of applying formulas and relative proportion to make sense of what we see in order to translate the illusion of 3-d to a 2-d surface, the Oakes brothers have contrived a way to bypass that brain-eye activity and see 2 things at once! The concavity of the page is an integral component, as is the distance of page and subject. Although, the "tracing" takes only a little drawing skill (for you need no understanding of appropriate perspective, etc.), the patience and focus of the drawer is incredible!

I snooped around and googled the Oakes brothers. Their website is: Looking at Ryan and Trevor's work separately, and in relation to this project, a parallel tedium is involved. It's all about process!...and many tiny parts forming a more impressive whole. I can only imagine the meditative rhythm to such tight handiwork---it leaves room in the brain for meandering and productive thought. From which, I assume they gave birth to this "seeing innovation."

If I were lecturing to my Contemp. class right now, I would probably close with some kind of statement like..."See, this is a great example of how Art is more than just the production of an object. It is a way of thinking! It crosses boundaries, and sees beyond lines of expertise. Optical Science, Physiology, and representation of illusion in Art all intersect in this project. Multiplicity is the new beauty. Interdisciplinarity the new perspective." And the mini-final product (as pictured above) is beautiful perspective, the kind Anish Kapoor reflected in his "Cloud Gate" (the Bean). Fitting.

Get out of your framework and see/think something with your rewired eye-brain!


p.s. Did I mention the artists are TWINS? and adorable!!

Trevor and Ryan Oakes are formally exhibiting this work for the first time in November 2008 @ the Spertus Museum. The brothers will be working on the Bean drawing through Friday, so if you get a chance, visit them in-process. Also, keep an eye out for their completed drawing on display in Millennium Park sometime soon.

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