R. Luke DuBois, Portraits
September 14–Oct 19, 2014
Reception: Sunday, September 14, 3 – 7 PM
Gallery Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM & Sunday 12 – 6 PM
bitforms gallery is pleased to announce its inaugural exhibition at a new storefront location on the Lower East Side. Portraits marks the gallery’s third solo exhibition with composer, artist, and performer R. Luke DuBois. It follows the recent success of a touring solo exhibition organized by the Ringling Museum of Art, which was profiled by The New York Times in January. A self-taught programmer, DuBois is best known for his explorations of the temporal, verbal, and visual structures of cultural and personal ephemera. The works on view investigate a wide range of subjects, including American circus performers, William S. Burroughs, and musicians of the downtown New York avant-garde scene.
On opening day, September 14, a live audiovisual performance will kick off the gallery’s new exhibition programming on Allen Street. Featuring DuBois and his musical collaborators, the event will showcase multiple improvisational techniques that employ real-time new media systems. The exhibition will also debut a series of screen-based video portraits that DuBois shot in August, capturing seven of his longtime collaborators: flutist Natacha Diels, bassist Melvin Gibbs, trombonist Chris McIntyre, violinist Todd Reynolds, guitarist Elliott Sharp, cellist Alex Waterman, and composer-performer Bora Yoon. Filmed in high-speed video, and slowed considerably in playback, the individual details not seen by the naked eye become focal points of interest, portraying the inner world of each sitter through the minutiae of their gestures and sounds.
Self-portrait, 1993-2014 is a data visualization work on paper that pictures a force-directed graph of DuBois’ email since 1993. Presenting what is essentially a “big bang” within his universe of personal and professional emails sent and received over twenty years, the piece realizes the mass and gravity of his relationships with nearly half a million people, as represented by unique email addresses. Galaxies of attraction are caused to form, based on those in constant dialog with one another, or those with choices of language that are more familiar, relaxed or emotional. In this constellation, the central “solar systems” in this map are governed by the five primary addresses that DuBois has used over the years. Identified by handwritten names, each person fits a social cluster that is organized by the sentiments expressed, and their topical interconnectedness, such as that indicated by carbon copy messaging and similarities in vocabulary.
In the gallery’s street-level window are two video portraits from DuBois’ Circus Sarasota series: Gena Shvartsman Cristiani (“the Juggler Extraordinaire”) and “Texas” Jack Fulbright (“the Fastest Roper in the World”). Filmed during Summer 2013, these pieces play with the vocabulary of traditional 19th Century circus posters, such as those created by Strobridge Lithography Company for the touring American circus and Wild West shows. Originally commissioned for the Ringling Museum of Art, Circus Sarasota features portraits of five local performers from the Circus Arts Conservatory. The entire series debuted earlier this year as an interactive installation for Now, a solo exhibition organized by contemporary curator Matthew McLendon.
Prosody: WSB is a generative video installation that DuBois developed in June for an exhibition celebrating the legacy of William S. Burroughs at the Lawrence Art Center. The project is based on a three-hour voice recording of Burroughs reading his seminal 1953 novel Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict. DuBois’ work remixes the audio in real-time according to a Markov process, whereby the words are heard out of order, following one another according to an array of linear sequences in the original text containing each word; the result resembles Burroughs’ later cut-up technique that was core to his collaboration with artist Brion Gyson. Individual words from the text flash randomly on screen, typographically stylized according to the logic of a custom prosody analysis, measuring Burrough’s vocal tempo.
Riffing on his own lived experience with text as a visual artist, DuBois recently sourced a vintage Hermes Rocket typewriter that was used by Burroughs. He is using it to draft surrealist typewritten compositions derived from the Prosody: WSB software. An exploration of generative poetry, this series of works on paper takes a computational approach to Burrough’s language and arts practice, and returns the words to their typewritten origin–on letter-size paper.
The earliest work on view, Pop Icon: Britney (2010) considers the shifting meaning of “icon.” The original Greek word εικων (eikon, or image) was used to signify an object of veneration, a staple of Eastern Orthodox and Catholic religious art that depicts important figures in highly stylized, symbolic (iconic) poses and tableaux. Pop stars (so-called, pop “icons”) in American culture find themselves in a similar situation; subjected to constant media attention, they become objects of veneration themselves. Britney Spears is arguably the first pop star to exist entirely in the age of AutoTune and Photoshop. Pop Icon: Britney takes all of Spears’ extant videos and singles and subjects them to a computational process that locks her eyes in place, allowing the video frame to pan around her, keeping her in a fixed position akin to an Orthodox icon. In addition, her voice is stripped from her songs (creating an “a capella” mix) and filtered through the reverberation of the San Vitale Basilica in Ravenna, Italy, one of Western Europe’s most important sites of Byzantine iconography.
Production support for this exhibition was provided by the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, through a residency made possible by an Art Works grant from the NEA.
Copies of the monograph R. Luke DuBois – Now, published earlier this year by Scala for The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, are available at the front desk for $30. It features essays by Matthew McLendon, Anne Collins Goodyear, Dan Cameron, and Matthew Ritchie. A fully illustrated exhibition guide will also be available September 14 at the gallery and online.