Andy’s Ambition, a site-specific installation at Bonfire Gallery at 603 S. Main Street in Seattle’s Japantown neighborhood, is on view now through June 30, 2022. It’s viewable from the street 24/7, and right next door to the storied Panama Tea Room. There will be a public reception on first Thursday, June 2, from 6-8 PM.
That quote might conjure up an image of Andy’s outwardly cold, unemotional stare as he churns out endless rows of Marilyns in his Factory.
For me, the associations are more nuanced: The line between machine and human is not so clear-cut. A human and a tool performing a task together make an intimate, intricate dance, the repetitions of their movements creating new rhythms and patterns that neither could have created on their own. Decorative pattern has its origin in one such dance: weaving, one of the earliest and most widespread of human-machine collaborations.
For this installation, I generated a pattern by rotating and repeating a single shape on a grid, in collaboration with screen, squeegee, and hand-cut Tyvek stencils. Out of our repetitive dance and its variations, additional shapes emerged. Those shapes felt both mechanical and handmade, and also somewhat creature-like. In collaboration with a saw, I brought these creatures out into three dimensions to continue the dance.
The basic shape at the root of it all is a square divided into two unequal L-shaped parts. Starting in one of its four possible positions and rotating it clockwise or anti-clockwise gives you eight possible variant rows. How you sequence those rows makes for an infinite variety of patterns, some of which form new unanticipated shapes.
Here’s a block of 4 units by 4 units, starting with the larger shape in yellow:
Magenta in the smaller shape, filling in the interstices.
And then it gets interesting…a variant pattern, generated from the same unit, printed in translucent cyan over top the first one….
And another layer of cyan, offset a bit …
Earlier I had experimented on a smaller scale with other patterns that I generated from the same unit. I kept returning to this sequence because I really liked the vaguely anthropomorphic, robotic, space-invader-era creatures that emerged out of it, seemingly by spontaneous generation. These shapes became the key to my next adventure: bringing pattern out of the wall and into the third dimension.
I cut two flat identical shapes based on the robot guys, cut a slot into each one, and rotated them 90 degrees from each other and attached them. My creatures now had a three-dimensional existence.
I cut the pieces out of plywood with the COOLEST FREAKING THING ON THE PLANET, a Cutawl K-11.