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Virgil de Voldère Gallery is proud to present Replicant, a group exhibition of four emerging artists. Rather than brood over a technocratic dystopia, herald clean utopian spaces, or take a reactionary stance on biological and environmental issues such as climate change and bioengineering, this exhibition explores potential futures in which imagination, adaptation, and creativity present a positive view of cultural and scientific progress. The artists—Ian Burns, Shane Hope, Gilles Rotzetter, and Scott Wolniak—are wildly divergent in their mediums and methods: the work is both outsourced and handmade, meticulous and low-tech, highly conceptual and grounded in materials.
Speculative nanotechnology, extreme bioengineering, technology breakthroughs, and artificial intelligence collide in the paintings of the New York–based Shane Hope. Presenting convoluted run-on sentences set against colored bands and rectangles, the canvases resemble LCDs and computer shell terminal windows. Hope’s compressed and convoluted language—including vernaculars, misspellings and scientific jargon—portrays futuristic communication not unlike programming or reference material. Outsourced to an oil-painting supplier in China and dated to the mid-twenty-first century, Hope speaks to today’s global economy but also forecasts the future of life in the decades to come.
Like an amateur tinkerer building a rocket ship in the garage, Ian Burns, also from New York, creates image-making machines with hardware store materials and scavenged household items. Similar to the enthralling low-technology of magic-lantern shows and shadow-puppet plays—and also the work of the artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss—Burns exerts incredible mechanical and conceptual effort to produce a simple visual image. Known for taking on subjects ranging from the mundane (driving in a car) to the political (Iraq War), the artist looks at recent art history in The Way We Know It – Lightning Field (2007). Here he aims a video camera at a miniature diorama of Walter De Maria’s famous earthwork—including simulated lightening—and displays the live feed on a television screen, warping the viewer’s sense of scale, art-historical memory, and sense of place: De Maria’s field becomes transported to the surface of another planet. In a world of digital manipulation of images, Burns provides a simulated experience that fools the eye and mind while also showing the seams.
The Weeds Project stems from Scott Wolniak’s observation of these resilient plants growing among trash in his Chicago neighborhood. Using the same litter thrown from cars or dropped by pedestrians—magazine and newspaper pages, potato-chip bags, cardboard containers, and plastic sacks—the artist traces replicated vegetation from the shapes of actual leaves, then stretches them across wire frames to form synthetic weeds. The finished sculptures are what a futuristic folk artist would make in a land ravaged of plant life in the not-too-distant future, cultivating beauty from trash.
The Swiss artist Gilles Rotzetter reimagines a collection of paintings by the seventeenth-century Flemish artist Jan van Kessel with his own faux-naïf drawings of postapocalyptic landscapes populated by hybrid human-animal creatures. While Kessel drew inspiration from illustrated scientific texts of flora, fauna, insects, and birds from the New World to paint meticulous still lifes with the utmost precision, Rotzetter creates otherworldly places, people, and objects in garish, unnatural colors; they’re more depictions of internal states and imaginative lands than accurate representations of reality. For the work on view, peripheral paintings surround a center canvas depicting a wolf-man standing among discarded flags, a graveyard of guitar amplifiers, and a pile of old tires. Other paintings showcase a reptile’s claw, a flock of birds, dueling deer-men, and an ornate compass—all mysterious symbols and events from a faraway world.