by Lisa Kirkham
In his brightly painted, massive, pixilated sculptures, Michael Whiting considers the visual relationship between early video games and 1960s minimalism. His art also creates a dialogue about the relationship between the “real” and the “virtual.”
According to Jeff Lambson, Curator of Contemporary Art at the BYU Museum of Art, the exhibition addresses the question, “What is the impact of the virtual in my real life? How real is virtual reality?”
Lambson said, “The art in this exhibition also explores the relationship between the virtual and the real, hinting at the incredible benefits of technology in our modern lives but also its potential pitfalls. By creating massive sculptures of thick, heavy steel plate, Whiting makes the intangible tangible. Do actions, conversations, and relationships in the virtual world have the same impact as those in the real world?”
Sculptures displayed in the exhibition will be large in size, ranging from five to eleven feet tall. They will all be brightly colored and bare the jagged edges of the first pixilated images that started it all.
Seth Baldridge, a curatorial assistant at the BYU Museum of Art, expressed his excitement for the exhibition because of its unique and fun style.
“When people see these giant sculptures, minimal form, the color, and the fun shapes, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Baldridge said.
In describing the visual connection between minimalism and early video games, Michel Whiting relates, “In my visual experience Pac-Man came before Donald Judd, Carl Andre or even Mondrian. For me [Piet Mondrian’s] Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-1943) will always be an homage to Pac-Man. . . . Early video gaming images are, at best, abstractions. They are minimal for lack of technology. Minimalism, on the other hand, created objects that were minimal by design and intention. Minimalism intended to reduce the art object to its simplest form.”
Baldridge commented further on this connection with technology. “The exhibition shows how prevalent technology has become in our lives, which I think is accomplished with the size of the sculptures.”
Lambson expects the exhibition to appeal to a lot of people and believes it will be accessible on many levels to different audiences, from students who’ve grown up in a digital age to the generation that helped create the modern technological age we live in.
“Historically the spread of ideas around the world took centuries, from the creation of the Guttenberg printing press to the Industrial Revolution. With the invention of the computer and the Internet, the world is now flat and ideas can fly across the world in a matter of moments.”
michael whiting: 8-bit modern will open Friday, June 15, with a public opening celebration in the Sculpture Garden at 6:30 p.m.