[Grid <> Matrix]

October 25, 2006 - December 31, 2006
Kemper Art Museum


As a simple method of arranging individual elements into perpendicular lines, the grid is a familiar pattern in contemporary life -- from traffic patterns to computer screen pixels -- sorting out the visible world in a way that is easy to recognize and navigate. While the grid remains a fundamental element in aesthetics and technology, the matrix takes the grid structure and pushes it into a new digital dimension, transforming its structure to embody relationships, connections, and organization in new and intentionally capricious ways. Gathering artworks that illustrate the tenuous and interconnected nature of the grid and matrix, [Grid < > Matrix] explores how these concepts relate or diverge as they organize our understanding of aesthetics, art, and media.

Shaping cities and factories to facilitate production, transportation, and inhabitation, the grid has been a basic structure in modern life since the industrial age. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the grid was embraced by modern artists such as Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg as a tool to reflect the possibilities of technological innovation. In contrast, Dan Flavin and Andy Warhol utilized the grid in postmodern works as a form that allows mass culture to penetrate high art, reshaping the role of aesthetics in society.

Matrices emancipate the grid from its confinement to two dimensions, and in the process seek to rediscover a sense of openness, narrative and language, and the unpredictable. Jeffrey Shaw, for example, uses plans of actual cities in The Legible City to create a virtual structure, composed of words and letters on large screens that visitors will be able to directly navigate by riding "through" on an interactive stationary bicycle -- each participant creating a different narrative that produces a unique representation of the city. In Library, a photograph by Andreas Gursky, the grids of modern book culture are digitally manipulated to offer an intricate matrix of visual intensities and unpredictable effects. And Julius Popp's Bit.Fall uses water droplets and a complex, computer-controlled valve system to create an enormous, ever-changing water wall of the words used frequently by Internet news sites -- embodying the impermanence of digital media with a completely ephemeral display.

An innovative investigation of digital culture and the way that aesthetics play a role in contemporary life, [Grid < > Matrix] will be on display at the Kemper Art Museum from October 25 to December 31, 2006. Curated by Sabine Eckmann, Kemper Art Museum director & chief curator, and Lutz Koepnick, professor of German, film and media studies at Washington University.