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Under Construction at Axis Gallery

March 5th, 2017

For the month of March, 2017, I am participating in a group show at Axis Gallery. I joined this collective with two other artists, Nick Shepard and Ben Hunt at the beginning of this year. The three of us did not previously know each other at all, but there is a strange kind of pressure cooker that happens when you need to gather work and put together a show.

We met a few times and thought about themes that might tie our work together in some way. The work is very different, which is great because we each stand out in our own way. We chose the title “Under Construction” as something that relates to all our work. As a first show as new members, it is a nod to the fact that all three of us are trying to figure this thing out.

The work I chose to show is related to the random, recursive JavaScript programming I have been working on since 2014. This work is deeply interesting to me from a few different perspectives which include aesthetic, historic and existential points of view.

Aesthetic

Beauty is very important to me. Visual relationships that “feel right”. Compositions that are dynamic. Color is very important to me. I feel like I have been studying color for over 20 years now. I enjoy images that I can keep looking at and continue to reveal themselves over time. The fact that the images this JavaScript program creates are continually changing, is extremely rewarding for me visually. I can watch it for hours.

There are lots of places in the development of the program where I made aesthetic choices about what to include and what not to include. Considering the end resulting visuals are completely computer generated, indirectly, there is a lot of the artist’s hand in the making of the work. And I find that fascinating and fun.

Historic

“At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.”

— Harold Rosenberg

I am very much influenced by the abstract expressionists. The quote from Harold Rosenberg resonates with me, and I think about what the painters from the 1940s 50s and 60s would have done with today’s technology. In some ways this work is very much an homage to them, not only in terms of visual style, and technological innovation, but also in its economics.

I always got a sense of thumbing their noses at the art establishment and the economics of buying and selling art from the abstract expressionists. A sense of “yeah, buy this!” that has carried itself forward to other artists that came after them. In that tradition. How do you buy, sell, or own a computer program that runs on the Internet? This is another aspect of the work that I find fascinating and challenging.

Existential

What is randomness? Can some thing be more or less random? are there degrees of random, or is it a binary proposition – it either is or it isn’t. There is an infinite number of possibilities between 0 and 1, and an infinite number of possibilities between 1 and 10. Is one infinity larger than the other? and if so, how do you measure that or think about that?

You might ask, “who cares?” but that is a question that rattles around in my head when I look at, think about, or work on making these pieces. It is a question that comes to mind when looking at patterns and rhythms in nature, from the shape of a tree to the uniqueness of a fingerprint.

Then I further connect it to questions about freedom, although not in a political sense, or at least not directly political. But it is the same question I have about randomness. Are there degrees of freedom? or is it a binary proposition. You either are or are not free? Freedom is a powerful idea and is one that is bandied about by people for all sorts of purposes, and I like thinking about it from this existential point of view, because it helps provide some perspective on old tired arguments.

My Approach to Showing The Work

The actual JavaScript work can be shown at any size. That is the nature of it. You can view it on your phone, or it could be blown up to the size of a building. For display in a gallery, I needed to get it as large as I can, but did not want to have to resort to projectors and darkness. I installed my 55 inch TV, but would love to display it even larger. The piece is called #18 because it is the eighteenth version of the recursive JavaScript program I wrote.

From there, I decided I wanted to take an approach that is similar to what Christo does with his installation pieces, which are also indefinable, uncontainable and not easily purchased. That is, to have work that documents, extends and, to a certain extent, explains the JavaScript recursive programming work – not in a didactic way, but in a visual artistic way. In a way that can be enjoyed all on its own.

I started with static screen shots of some of the compositions that are randomly generated by the program. I enjoy these compositions immensely, even though my hand is only tangentially in them. So that seemed like a logical place to start. I brought these images into illustrator and then photoshop and continued to manipulate them in small ways. Finally, after consultation with a few other artists, I decided to print them out on aluminum. The aluminum is a material that does a beautiful job of honoring the digital, screen based roots of the work.

Next, I worked on a series of “sketches” that are intended to break apart a few different aspects of the program and focus on them. One focuses on the 5000 most used words in the English language that can be randomly included in the compositions. The second one focuses on the various colors that make up the color schemes used by the program, and the third is an attempt to visually communicate the recursive nature of the program through the use of spirals.

I am thrilled to see all this work up in such a beautiful gallery, and displayed alongside my artistic colleagues, Ben and Nick, whose work is so different, but also very intriguing and visually engaging. I am not exactly sure what comes next in my artistic work, but I plan to keep pushing some of these ideas forward. Feel free to leave comments, or contact me if you have any further thoughts or questions.

Some Useful Links

  • Check out wmmead.com for more information on the development of the JavaScript at the foundation of this work
  • Check out the Axis Gallery website to find out more about the gallery and its hours
  • Check out the Axis Gallery Facebook page to find out about more Axis events and shows
  • Check out Aluminyze.com to find out more about printing on Aluminum

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About William Mead…

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This site shows some of my front-end design and development work and shows how I use these projects to teach students about those same topics.

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Professional Qualities

  • Enthusiastic about teaching, learning, managing projects and building products for the web.
  • Deeply creative and always playful. Frequently engrossed in solving complex puzzles.
  • Thoroughly engaged in the design and web development industries.
  • A visual learner with an analytical mind.
  • Introspective and always striving for improvement.

Skills

I am particularly good at bending CSS to do my bidding, and I really enjoy creating custom interactivity with JavaScript. I am always excited about new problems that need to be tackled.

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bill@mead.design
530-219-8998

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