Opening on May 2, “Degeneration/Regeneration” features the paintings of Scott Greenwalt and the 3D-printed sculptures of the collaborative team of Smith|Allen (Stephanie Smith and Bryan Allen) at Oakland’s Loakal Art Gallery. It shows how artists mediate nature through art. It’s not a new concept, not by a long shot. But it’s a fertile and relevant one. On one level, the show serves as an environmental call to arms. Any recent image of industrial Chinese cities affirms the show’s significance. On another level, it shows the way that urban folk experience digital representations of the natural world. This digitization can take place with photos and videos posted on social media. Google Earth allows viewers can visit scenes of natural or otherwise exotic climes. Finally, video games often occur in hyper accurate landscapes.
The show foregrounds the way the natural world inspires these two bodies of work. Greenwalt’s acrylic paintings evoke a tension between macro- and microscopic views of nature. His work includes shapes that suggest cells and terrestrial and extraterrestrial landscapes. This suggests the organic unity of everything in the universe. The work is large. It gives the viewer a focal point in this universe. And it shows how things smaller than the eye can see include dynamic, always evolving activity. He will also feature a site-specific installation that will include living plants.
Smith|Allen make installations and sculptures that hinge on a balance between the technological and natural worlds. Their 3D-printed work presents a cutting-edge creative process. But their subject matter suggests structures drawn from the natural world. Like Greenwalt’s installation with living plants, their work incorporates actual organic processes. They fabricated one piece, “degen1”, with material that will deteriorate after 50 years. Thus, in the next 50 years, the piece will show its age. It will show the same wear and tear as oxidized steel sculpture. With great insight, the work of Greenwalt and Smith|Allen attests to the vitality of nature’s ability to inspire art.
Full disclosure: this exhibition was curated by Hi-Fructose online editor Nastia Voynovskaya.