Science and Spirituality Gallery Exhibition Opens with Artist Lecture

Written by Bernardo Schirmer
Megaphone Chief Photographer

The Sarofim School of Fine Arts Gallery is currently displaying the works of Paris based French sculptor, poet and mathematician Christian Lavigne. As with the exhibition in 2007 Measured Strokes, Spontaneous Beasts, Mr. Lavigne’s sculpture exhibit, Science and Spirituality, fits with the theme of this year’s Brown Symposium, only this time also included a lecture by the artist as part of the actual symposium.

The exhibition itself is fairly extensive, covering the artist’s career from his start in the eighties to some of his most recent works.

The majority of the works, nearly all the tangible objects and many of the photographs, are examples of a new process known as digital sculpture.

Lavigne, along with Southwestern’s own head of the sculpture department, Mary Visser, and many other artists like Bruce Beasley are pioneers in this field of digital sculpture.

Lavigne’s work are not handmade in the conventional sense of the creation of sculptural objects. This process involves the translation of virtual, three dimensional forms created by the artist in computer programs into a tangible three dimensional objects via the use of certain kinds of printers.

This method allows an artist to achieve previously impossible forms of incredible intricacy. Many of Lavigne’s pieces also provide a view of the advances in the technology. Most notably among these is the inclusion of color directly into the prototyping process.

Along with the advances, one also sees the variety of methods used in producing sculptures. Some of the items are made by layering slices similar to many 3-D puzzles.

Others worked in one of the original forms of rapid prototyping, which coiled medium to create the forms, similar to the way a coil pot is made.

Still others were formed in a process literally called 3-D printing in the inkjet sense. In this process resin glue is used instead of ink and instead of paper there is a powder.

The sculptures themselves are an interesting mixed bag of abstract and figurative work. Each one is philosophically tied to Lavigne’s own beliefs pertaining to religion and the history of art.

Many of the works possess some connection to a mathematical concept or classical influences from artists who pioneered the use of mathematics in art and architecture.

“Le Nombre D’Or” (“the golden number”) forms a scepter out of shapes in keeping with the golden ratio, a mathematical concept attached to ideal beauty in relation to each other. In contrast, “Régénération du Monde” references the concepts in many creation stories.

The photo skull “Tête à Tête 2/ Mnémosyme” and his Cybersaly pieces provide an example of how literal digital sculpture can become. All of these are items created from scans of actual objects to ensure fidelity of detail.
The skull actually came from an MRI of the artist while the Cybersalies are scans of his wife Saly’s head. You may recognize Saly in some of the photos on the skull. Both pieces can be interpreted as statements on identity. Some of the pieces become a little overt.

“Ni Dieu ni Maître / Neither God nor Master” and “Bullshit” were both created after Lavigne was kidnapped and held hostage by Muslim extremists in Algeria. As a result they can be read as statements on the dangers of extremism and the suppression of expression. The former piece seems to work better than the latter if only because it isn’t as crass.
Overall this is a very good if not slightly crowded show. Most of the pieces appear to be significantly titled but in French, so a bit more on-site literature could have been provided to help with the language barrier.

Like all SU shows, this event is free. It will continue through March 7 and is open from 1 to 5 p.m. so there is no logical reason to miss it.

Even if you have the same mixed feelings as I have about some of the implications of digital sculpture, I still recommend this show. Just brush up a little on your French.

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