June 1-8, 2000; Issue No. 245


Craig Kalpakjian

Robert Miller Gallery, through June 10th

People often discuss "cyberspace" as if it were a world apart. That's the cliché; the reality is more like a technological sphere that's infiltrating our manual, analog one and shaping our perception along the way. Play Myst for a while and see if later you don't find yourself mentally clicking on doorways and street signs. On a more literal note, that chair you're sitting in was probably designed on a computer. Either way, we're already living at a time when the real and virtual aren't really opposed.

Art usually registers such shifts in perspective, and Craig Kalpakjian's latest show offers a great example. Using architectural design programs like Form Z and Lightscape (if these sound unfamiliar, don't worry; you've seen them at work in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), Kalpakjian generates renderings of room interiors, hallways and ducts completely by computer. They are both gorgeous and remarkably realistic, with subtle shadings and reflections of light playing across textured surfaces to create images that seem more like photographs of actual rooms than geometries conjured from ones and zeros.

Kalpakjian also alludes to the greater cultural context for such technological feats: Dim corridors and surveillance devices capture the menacing mood of Internet tracking and software monopolies. One hallway in particular has the clean, uniform, almost pharmaceutical complexion of a Microsoft nightmare. And the works' highly reflective surfaces place any viewer's image smack in the frame--a phantom figure, as immersed in the compressed vacuum of computerized space as any Web surfer.

To be sure, there are lesser works: One image of a surveillance camera comes a bit too close to M.C. Escher's nifty spatial conundrum Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But that's easily overlooked when viewing more abstract pieces like Dark Hall II, where the darkness is nearly total. At first glance, the image is flat and uniform except for a single, barely discernable seam down the center. Then your eyes adjust to see that the thinnest veil of light falls around a hallway corner. Suddenly, surface becomes space. At that point, Kalpakjian becomes an Ad Reinhardt for the digital age. -- Tim Griffin







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