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Museum's Modern Art Council honors media artist Jim Campbell with Lifetime Achievement Award and Dinner
Artist Jim Campbell at SFMOMA with Exploded Views, July 2012. Photo: Charles Villyard.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Like no other artist of his generation, internationally renowned media art pioneer Jim Campbell mixes technology, sculpture, cinema, and light into an art form uniquely his own. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art honors Campbell with this year's Bay Area Treasure Award at a presentation and dinner on Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Organized by SFMOMA's Modern Art Council, the museum's premier fund-raising auxiliary, this annual lifetime achievement award recognizes Bay Area–based artists who continually redefine the field of contemporary art.

Campbell is the 13th Bay Area Treasure Award honoree; previous recipients include painters Robert Bechtle, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveria, Wayne Thiebaud, and William T. Wiley; sculptors Richard Serra and Mark di Suvero; sound artist Bill Fontana; industrial designer Sara Little Turnbull; architect Lawrence Halprin; and photographers Ruth Bernhard and Larry Sultan.

In response to the popularity of the event—formerly a luncheon—the Bay Area Treasure Award will be celebrated this year with an elegant dinner at The St. Regis San Francisco. The evening will feature a conversation with Campbell, SFMOMA Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling, and San Francisco–based media artist Scott Snibbe, as well as a screening of a new short film about Campbell's practice.

A pre-event champagne reception for premier ticket holders will be held in SFMOMA's Haas Atrium beneath Campbell's suspended installation Exploded Views (2011), a large-scale cinematic sculpture that features nearly 3,000 flickering LED lights (currently on view to the public in its final months, through Oct. 23, 2012).

Proceeds from the Bay Area Treasure Award event support SFMOMA's exhibitions and enable the museum to serve more than 50,000 students, teachers, and families annually through innovative education programs.

Campbell's groundbreaking multimedia work is both abstract and representational, integrating custom-built responsive computer technologies with a sculptural approach to light that explodes 2D images into three-dimensional form. In many of the artist's installations, the position of the viewer is central to the experience of the work, exploring his ongoing fascination with time, memory, the nature of movement, and the boundaries of visual perception.

Born in 1956 in Chicago, Campbell received degrees in both electrical engineering and mathematics from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As an engineer, he holds more than a dozen patents in the field of image processing and high-definition broadcast, and also has a background in filmmaking. Eventually Campbell fused his artistic and scientific backgrounds, and in the 1980s began creating video works and interactive installations using custom electronics that he designed for the unique purpose of each installation.

Recently, visitors to New York City's Madison Square Park experienced Campbell's monumental three-dimensional outdoor work titled Scattered Light (2010), which displayed hundreds of dangling lightbulbs that seemed to flicker at random. Upon closer observation, viewers could make out shadowy human figures moving across the illuminated grid of LED screens.

SFMOMA's commissioned installation, Exploded Views (2011), similarly investigates the nuances of human perception and comprehension. The work displays four original films—a new one every two months—on a gigantic three-dimensional "monitor" composed of thousands of LEDs, creating a vibrant cloud of moving light suspended in the museum's atrium. The first film was made in collaboration with Alonzo King's LINES Ballet; the second studied a flock of birds; the third considered the unrehearsed movements of San Francisco pedestrians; and the intensely choreographed fourth film captures a boxing match up close with a moving camera. Although the work is positioned for primary viewing from the museum's second-floor landing, a perspective from which the image recomposes, it offers dynamic vantage points from all sides.

SFMOMA's relationship with Campbell spans over 20 years. The museum first supported him as an emerging artist by showing his interactive work Hallucination (1989)—represented in the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection—in the group exhibition Bay Area Media (1990). His work Digital Watch (1991) is also part of SFMOMA's media arts collection and was recently on view in Selected Histories (2012). Campbell was awarded SFMOMA's 1996 SECA Electronic Media Award, and his current Exploded Views atrium commission complements his inclusion in the museum's recent 2011 SECA fiftieth anniversary exhibition and related publication Fifty Years of Bay Area Art: The SECA Awards.

Additionally, Campbell's work is held in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and the San Jose Museum of Art, and has been shown as these institutions as well as the Carpenter Center, Harvard University; The Power Plant, Toronto; The International Center for Photography, New York; and the InterCommunication Centre in Tokyo as one of ten international artists chosen to participate in its 1997 biennial. He has also lectured widely, received fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller, Fleishhacker, Eureka, and Langlois foundations, and published in-depth studies on the possibilities of new computer systems and software.

Campbell's work was recently on view in the Emoção Art.Ficial 6.0 Media Art Biennial at Itaú Cultural in São Paulo, Brazil, and will be included in the group exhibition Transformative Surfaces at the Universityof New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, beginning September 14, 2012. Other upcoming projects include his large-scale public commission with the San Diego Airport, Blue Path, which will be unveiled in April 2013 in the new Terminal 2; and his Scattered Light installation, featured in the Perth International Arts Festival in Australia (February 8 through March 2, 2013).

The artist is represented by Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York and Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco, which will include the artist's work in the group exhibition Look Both Ways from September 8 to October 6, 2012.

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