Friday, April 3, 2009

Shih Whiz! Beauty, Whimsy & Technology Mix

On my way home from the office yesterday, I swung by the Beall Center for Art+Technology at UC Irvine for the opening reception of the exhibition "EX-I-09" by Shih Chieh Huang, a Taipei-born, American-educated artist.

"Installations" are far from new in contemporary art, where spaces (or sections of rooms) are taken over entirely by a single piece or an entire artistic world, but Shih's works gives new meaning to the word--precisely because they must be plugged-in and they expand and contract, whether placed on the floor or suspended from the ceiling.

The lightheartedness of these sculptural mechanisms, inflating and deflating plastic bags and illuminated by colorful and ever-changing LED, neon and incandescent bulbs is an effective rejoinder to those critical of conceptual art on the basis of not "getting it" as well as to that brand of nihilists within the art "scene" who lack a sense of humor.

Shih's work is at once a beautiful and whimsical melding of the everyday with technological gadgetry, a sort of neo-Rube Goldberg, and while it's not without its irony--it just doesn't wallow in it.

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