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The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation presents "Eye Contact: Portraits in the Global Age"
Daniel Rozin, Selfish Gene Mirror, 2015, video camera, custom software, computer, monitor.

SANTA FE, NM.- On view now at Art House, Eye Contact considers portraiture as a sociological art rather than a personal one, its likenesses embedded within the cultural and historic influences of an era. With artworks spanning more than two centuries—from 1776 to 2015—its centerpiece is a new acquisition of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation’s digital collection: Lady Gaga: Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere, a high definition color video on 65-inch plasma monitor. Robert Wilson’s video portrait intentionally mimics Neoclassical artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ famous painting of the eponymous 19th-century French aristocrat, now hanging in the Louvre.

Wilson, described by the New York Times as “America’s—or even the world’s—foremost avant-garde ‘theater artist,’” uses the signature lighting, movement, and scenic design of his productions in Lady Gaga: Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere. While portraits are commissioned and created to commemorate individual identity, Eye Contact proves that they are equally repositories—at times unwittingly—of the sociopolitical forces around them: world trade, colonialism, or advances in technology.

Wilson’s portrait of Lady Gaga is an ironic meditation on the medium’s ability to denote immortality. Lady Gaga acts the part of the original sitter, an elegant teenager who died within a year of the work’s completion. Standing in front of a computer-generated landscape, she holds the foreknowledge of Riviere’s tragic demise, her gothic pose, intense eye contact, and expression conveying an awareness that even fame fades with time. Wilson’s digital animation is a seamless 9-minute loop without apparent beginning or end, with music by Michael Galasso.

Eye Contact brings together works from the Foundation’s diverse collections of Digital Art and Spanish Colonial painting, on view together for the first time at Art House Santa Fe. Unlike Lady Gaga and Riviere, little is known about the woman depicted in Andrés Solano’s 1776 Portrait of Ana Josepha de Castañeda y de la Requere. The inscription on her portrait notes that she was the wife of Juan Lázaro Merino y Zaldo, most likely a sugar planter in the town of Trinidad in central Cuba. While Josepha is forthright and relatively unadorned, the extravagance of her gilt rococo picture frame reflects her position as a wealthy peninsular, a Spanish-born Spaniard residing in the New World or the Spanish East Indies. Her bloodline is denoted in the painting’s inscription, documenting her caste at a time when cultures, identities, religions, and ideas were mixing in the Spanish colonial world.

By contrast, Daniel Rozin’s 2015 Selfish Gene Mirror transforms the viewer into its subject. Via a small camera and the artist’s customized “Darwinian” algorithm, lines of pixels replicate the behavior of human genes, scrambling to assemble a lifelike visage in real time through a process of propagation. Each “gene” is programmed to compete for its ongoing existence. The viewer is reinterpreted within the work of art in a transitory way. Once he or she walks away, the pixels die off. The memorializing impulse of portraiture, already imperfect, is abandoned.

Spanning the global history of computer art of the past fifty years, the Foundation’s digital art collection includes some of the first algorithmic plotter drawings on paper, software-driven, generative, and custom-coded artworks, interactive works based on real-time gaming platforms, internet-based or networked art, and works that utilize LED and LCD displays. With more than 130 works from the 17th to 19th centuries, the Spanish Colonial art collection includes religious paintings and portraits from the Viceroyalty of Peru and the Kingdom of Nueva Granada, as well as a selection of portraits from the Spanish Caribbean. The Thoma Collection is on view and open to the public at Art House year-round.

Today's News

October 8, 2018

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The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation presents "Eye Contact: Portraits in the Global Age"

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