Manifestations of a Cube
Original glass dish
I was fascinated by the potential for a single, simple object to have infinite form in nature. One day I took a glass dish into the darkroom and made 25 – 30 photograms using it as an image source. The next day I tried to duplicate some of the images I had made the day before and found that, not only was I incapable of doing the images I had done the day before, but I found new images I had not imagined. So, for three years, periodically I took the dish into the darkroom and made photograms. This investigation resulted in hundreds of photograms of this dish.
I then made photograms using cyanotype emulsion, and added color to black and white photograms using color Xerox technology. I then digitized black and white photograms at the USC School of Engineering Image Processing Laboratory and permutated color through the grey levels of these images. Ultimately, this led to a computer generated film entitled “Intuition” of color permutating through the grey levels of one of the photograms. Finally I X-Rayed the cube at the Xerox Medical Imaging Research Center in Pasadena, using a technology commercially known as mammography. This technology is normally used to detect cancer in breast tissue because it reveals subtle differences in tissue density. I was able to make visible X-Ray refractions when using glass that were different than visible light refractions.
Each technology had its appropriate manifestation. For instance, I made an 8’ x 20’ wall of hundreds of the black and white photograms organized as visual music. I also made a matrix of 16 color images of color permutations from the computer. I also made four cyanotyped images reflecting the x-y-z axis of the cube.
Ultimately, this work became the abstract model for the concept of the democratization of art at any historic moment. My paradigm was the following: the concept of cubeness plus my personal concept of art plus the specific technology I am using results in the unique configuration for each art work generated from each technology. If I change the language and substitute the word ‘artness’ (whatever the artist thinks art is) for ‘cubeness’ and substitute ‘cultural mind’ (as in Black, Asian, Latino or White) for my mind, and if I substitute whatever technology people from each ethnic community have access to or chose to use, then perhaps this approach would yield a more democratic way of understanding creativity at any historic moment instead of the pyramidal system currently in place.
In 1979, I tested this construct by proposing a cross cultural exhibition of photography to the Los Angeles Bicentennial Committee. They accepted my proposal and I spent the next year and a half working on the show. I selected three people as curators from each community, twelve in all. We had an open call for submissions to this exhibition and all twelve curators juried the show. The exhibition was titled “Multicultural Focus” and was held at Los Angeles Municipal Gallery Barnsdall Park in January 1980. The opening was a smashing success and the exhibition was the first major exhibition for many photographic artists who have gone on to make national and international reputations. And, the work in the show demonstrated that the idea of creativity at any historic moment is interpreted uniquely by people from different cultural groups and that we cannot understand the concept of creativity at any historic moment unless we look at the art work produced by diverse cultural groups at that time.