Digital creation, physical art

By Brianna Wellen

While a sketch was being made in Chicago, artists in Philadelphia gathered supplies, and someone else in Massachusetts created a digital mock-up of a sculpture. Meeting online, six artists from different parts of the country virtually created a series of artwork for their newest exhibit. Each piece was touched in some way by every artist to achieve creative collaboration in its fullest.

Brought together by digital means, “A Rod Stewart Little Prince Charles Manson Family” presents sculptures and installation art focused on found objects. None of the pieces in the exhibition, which opened on May 7, at LVL3 Gallery, 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave., has a single artist attached to the work. This was done to eliminate ego from the process.

The exhibit’s name is a reflection of how the artists worked, according to Vincent Uribe, the gallery’s director. It started with the idea of a word game, beginning with a first and last name and then adding new surnames to create a running, overlapping list. The artists created a Tumblr page to incorporate this idea into their visual work. One artist would upload a mock-up of an idea, then the following artist would add on what he or she thought might enhance the piece. Much of the time, this interaction was anonymous.

“It was a way for us to use play and generate our ideas that are more continuous,” said Dan Wallace, a Philadelphia-based artist involved in the project. “We included types of materials, like consumer objects, with crafted objects [and] already-made works of art [to] have them all sit together to gain a greater understanding of how they relate, rather than each piece having a different value than the next.”

Wallace said the idea originated from three Philadelphia artists, in their gallery there, Extra Extra. They proposed the idea to Chicago-based Uribe, who normally shies away from featuring groups who frequently collaborate. To further challenge the artists, he offered a counterproposal that stipulated that they add three more artists whom they had never worked with—Justin Kemp, of Northampton, Mass., Philadelphia-based artist Joshua Pavlacky and Chicagoan Carson Fisk-Vittori.

“Seeing them work together [in person] is actually really similar to how it’s been happening online,” Uribe said. “They’ll arrange objects and rearrange objects and [be] adding objects and taking them away. It’s been a really nice flow of ideas.”

By incorporating Skype, email threads and instant messaging, it took artists six months to create the show, which, according to Uribe, was a much longer process than he is used to. Wallace said it was hard for the three artists from Extra Extra to not share ideas in person. They wanted to discuss everything with all the artists through digital forums to keep them all on the same page.

According to Fisk-Vittori, the discussion was open because the nature of their work allows for creativity and collaboration. For example, the group knew it wanted to include a column to reflect the space’s architecture. From there, the possibilities were endless as to what materials would make up the column, what height it would be, where in the space it would stand, etc. Passing ideas through social media sites such as Tumblr and Twitter brought their creativity to a different level without an over-arching theme in mind.

“I think the main relationship between our works is an interest in materials,” Fisk-Vittori said. “Not just being a painter or photographer but working with a lot of found objects. I think because we’re all on the same page about using found objects, we didn’t really define what we were doing specifically. A lot of the pieces sprung from Twitter phrases and [a] weird combination of ideas.”

In the final installation stages, when the artists met in person for the first time, the pieces weren’t fully defined. The artists moved around certain sculptures and added and subtracted items from installations until the very last minutes before the show.

“It’s very freeing, this show,” Wallace said. “It allows us to play without boundaries.”

“A Rod Stewart Little Richard Prince Charles Manson Family” will run at the LVL3 Gallery, 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave., until June 11. The exhibit can be seen on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, visit