Monday, July 14, 2008

The Artist and the Scientist

I have a giraffe. His name is Roland. He’s almost as tall as I am, which either makes me a very tall person, or Roland a not-so-tall giraffe. In addition to size differences, giraffes also differ in their coat patterns. A friend recently dropped off a page from National Geographic illustrating six different genetically distinct giraffes, and we tried to match Roland's pattern to one of the real African kind, reticulated, or Rothschild’s. But it was not to be, and I suggested that Roland might represent the Platonic ideal of giraffeness. To which my friend countered, “Or a new species waiting to be discovered.” A giraffa melissaanddougii?

Which brings me to the current vogue for science-infused art, and the aesthetic of meaning (see last week’s post). It’s not easy to find pure painting anymore, or pure sculpture. Perhaps these traditional forms have beaten a retreat into the savannas of printmaking, where technology allows for all kinds of formal permutations. Drawing has become mapping, photography the documentation of time, painting is the handmaiden of computer generated imagery, and sculpture – well, Arthur Ganson's machines do all these things and more. Not that I think any of this is bad. To the contrary, it is in the light of the discoveries of new species of art that we become more rigorous in our evaluations of the patterns of form and meaning.

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