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 Science and Art meet this year at the Rose Art Museum,

by Daniel D. Snyder

August 28th, 2007


In the past year, the Rose Art Museum has featured an exhibition of folksy, geometric wall art by Clare Rojas; a collection of classic video art; a show of paper and ink drawings from the Brandeis permanent collection; and a large-scale installation of mirror balls and fluorescent lights by the Swiss artist John Armleder. This fall, the focus will be on a subject familiar to the Brandeis community: scientific research. The two feature exhibitions at the Rose both serve as a locus of what are sometimes competing phenomena-the tension between science and art, and the boundary between the public and the private domains of an artist’s life. The exhibitions, which open on Sept. 25th will be the first solo United States museum shows for both of the American born artists. “Steve Miller: Spiraling Inward,” and “Tom Sachs: Logjam,” in the Rose building and the Foster Wing, respectively, will run through December 16th.

Spiraling Inward” is a collection of paintings and drawings borne out of Miller’s collaboration with Brandeis alumnus Rod MacKinnon ’78. MacKinnon, who received the Nobel Prize in 2003 for his research on the movement of charged ions across cell membranes, allowed Miller to use his research documents in creating his art. Miller then created paintings and drawings that incorporate both traditional artistic techniques and modern scientific imagery.

Although he began his career in the 1970s in the abstract and conceptual art fields, Miller became interested in the frontiers of scientific research (particularly the genetics and particle physics fields.) “Indisputably, science and technology have transformed every aspect of culture, with the comprehensive impact of this transformation also affecting visual aesthetics. Using the tools of technology as a lens through which to view our world and exploring the language of this new science has been the driving force of my work,” Miller says.

This exhibition is an extraordinary opportunity for us to explore this enormously important frontier between art and science. “Few artists have brought their own imaginative skill to scientific processes the way Steve Miller has,” said Michael Rush, curator of the exhibition and the Henry and Lois Foster Director of The Rose.

Tom Sachs’ installation, “Logjam,” investigates a more familiar frontier, that between private processes and public offerings. Sachs’ installation consists of reconstructions of his own artistic workstations and one video chronicling a day’s work in his studio, showcasing ordinary objects like office supplies and power tools-the objects that Sachs uses to create his art, which in turn consists of objects. This focus on the role of objects in art and in the process of creating art comments on one of Sachs’s favorite subjects, consumer culture.

The work also serves to illustrate Sachs’ personal relationship with his art and his personal artistic process. The installations include a working refrigerator and bathroom, meant to represent the daily survival activities that are necessary to Sachs’s artistic process. “Each piece speaks to Sachs’ creative process and to the act of art making. These private works tell of obsession and labor, but add to these attributes a sense of playfulness and exuberance that infuse each of his objects,” says Jeff Fleming, Director of the Des Moines Art Center and the curator of the exhibition. The exhibition also includes his work “Million Dollar Desk” (2005-06).

“Tom Sachs has been exploring consumer culture and the complexities of global politics in alarming and winning ways for more than 15 years,” said Rush. “His meticulous reconstructions of everyday objects from refrigerators to the deck of an aircraft carrier are heightened experiences of the world around us that we often don’t attend to.”