Trompe l'oeil for the Twenty-First Century
Craig Kalpakjian at Robert Miller
524 West 26 Street, NYC
Through Jun 10, 2000

by Brian Boucher - 06/08/2000



If you hurry, you can catch Craig Kalpakjian's enticing exhibition, on view until June 10, with thirteen sinister evocations of depopulated, seemingly corporate interiors and the mechanisms of modern surveillance. Though at first they appear to be photographs, they are computer-generated using architectural design programs such as FormZ and Lightscape.
Craig Kalpakjian, Long Hall, 1999.
Craig Kalpakjian, Long Hall, 1999.

  In their "gotcha" effect and their subversion of the supposed objectivity of photography, they can be compared to set-up photographers such as Thomas Demand and James Casebere, who photograph paper and cardboard models (and in fact the claustrophobic spaces in Kalpakjian's and Casebere's works are quite similar). But Kalpakjian's technique can cause the model-makers to seem slightly precious by comparison.

Craig Kalpakjian, Monitor II, 1999.
Craig Kalpakjian, Monitor II, 1999.

  Kalpakjian uses digital media, which have not gained full acceptance in the art world, tomimic a medium whose advocates long struggled for the same respect accorded to painting and sculpture. This art-historical irony only adds to an appeal that stems from the illusion of believable spaces achieved with ones and zeroes. The finest details, such as the meticulously recreated texture of the frosted glass over fluorescent lights, lock in the illusion, while the act of looking is emphasized through the use of high-gloss surfaces that challenge you to avoid your own reflection.

Craig Kalpakjian, Hall, 1997.
Craig Kalpakjian, Hall, 1997.
  His stunning interiors range from the inside of a closet with light streaming around the edge of the door to room corners with security monitors and an almost entirely black image that reveals, gradually, the slimmest bit of light falling around a corner. Spaces depicted range from those inside duct work to long corridors stretching into nowhere.

  As Diane Ludin pointed out in a 1998 Thing review, these works can evoke office spaces left empty by downsizing and the rise of telecommuting. With sophisticated technological tools, Kalpakjian creates ghostly images of the bleaker aspects of the future technology has wrought. Easy targets, perhaps, but a satisfying hit nonetheless.


© THE THING 2000