New exhibit celebrates blending of art and technology

A darkened room. Flickering lights. Art that comes to life as the viewer approaches.

A photo of

"Tilted Plane" by Jim Campbell. Image courtesy of the artist and Hosfelt Gallery, New York and San Francisco.

"This is a very unusual space," admits Mark Johnson, director of SF State's Fine Arts Gallery.

Unusual, but innovative and interactive. The gallery's new exhibition, "SmARTspace at the Intersection of Art and Technology," features work from top new-media artists and celebrates a discipline pioneered by the late SF State Professor Stephen Wilson, who passed away last year.

Several years ago, Wilson, the author of the books "Art + Science Now" and "Information Arts," proposed a show highlighting "conceptual information arts," which uses computers to blend art, science and technology. "He kind of invented this discipline," Johnson said. "SmARTspace" is timed to commemorate the first anniversary of Wilson's death.

A photo of

"Monacle V" by Alan Rath. Image courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

The exhibit features work from four West Coast artists, two performance events, a panel discussion and two off-campus exhibits featuring students and alumni. All of the art utilizes technology and is designed to interact with the viewer.

Viewers can walk through "Tilted Plane" by Jim Campbell, a sloped display of 200 flickering lights, or Gail Wight's "Center of Gravity," where their movement will trigger recorded sounds of nature from poles suspended from the ceiling. "Monacle V" and "Handful,” from Alan Rath, have heat-seeking sensors and eyes that follow the viewer. And Maggie Orth's "100 Electronic Art Years" is a "digital textile" that changes color and patterns when someone draws near.

A robotic hand made by SF State Lecturer Kal Spelletich will greet gallery visitors at an opening reception at 4 p.m. Feb. 21, and at 5 p.m. Pamela Z will perform solo works for voice, electronics and video in Knuth Hall. A panel discussion, "Then and Now: Circa 1980-2012+" featuring Wight and fellow artists Ken Goldberg, Meredith Tromble and Roger Malina will take place at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 29. In addition, two off-campus galleries will host work from SF State students and alumni. The Lab will feature work from SF State alumni from Feb. 3 through 25, and Root Division will showcase pieces from currents students and recent graduates March 2 and 3.

Many SF State students work in the field of conceptual information arts, Johnson said, and students are involved behind the scenes in every aspect of SF State's exhibits, including organization and promotion.

The Bay Area is a hub for blending art and technology thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley, Johnson added. "There is a forum for discussing this work because we are a technology capital," he said. And it’s a field he sees continuing to grow as technology expands more into everyday life.

The free exhibit runs through March 15. The gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building and is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. For more information about the exhibit and its related events, visit

-- Jonathan Morales