Devorah Sperber, Detail View: After Vermeer 2, 2006, 5,024 spools of thread, stainless steel ball chain and hanging apparatus, clear acrylic viewing sphere, metal stand, 104-122" h x 100" w x 60”-72"d).

Devorah Sperber Unspools Art History through the Mechanics of Seeing

Devorah Sperber, Detail View: After van Eyck, 2006, 5,024 spools of thread, stainless steel ball chain and hanging apparatus, clear acrylic viewing sphere, metal stand (104"-122" h x 100” w x 60” d).

Devorah Sperber, Studio View: After van Eyck, 2006, 5,024 spools of thread, stainless steel ball chain and hanging apparatus, clear acrylic viewing sphere, metal stand (104"-122" h x 100” w x 60” d).

 

MASS MoCA
87 Marshall Street
North Adams
413-662-2111
Kidspace
at the Albany Airport Gallery
Interpretations: Devorah Sperber
March 27-September 1, 2008

For most, the act of seeing is an unremarkable event — few people give much thought to the mechanics behind this commonplace activity.

But, for New York-based artist Devorah Sperber, how the brain interprets visual information forms the centerpiece of a fascinating artistic practice. Interpretations: Devorah Sperber features sculptures by Sperber which explore how the brain interprets visual information, suggesting surprising bridges between classic paintingtechniques and modern digital technology.

At first glance Sperber’s sculptures appear to be multi-colored< abstractions composed from volumes of craft materials like spools of thread, chenille stems, map tacks, gem stones, or marker caps.

For instance, Sperber’s homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper comprises 20,736 spools of thread which create a life-sized mural that is almost 30 feet wide. When viewed through special optical devices like a clear acrylic sphere or a convex mirror, however, recognizable images from art history suddenly emerge.

Sperber crafts her works so the viewing process mimics the way the eyes and brain interpret visual stimuli. Many of her abstracted images are constructed upside-down and backwards, which is the way the eyes absorb information.

The optical device functions as a brain, condensing, inverting, and reversing raw color and value into something identifiable. Upside-down and backward composition alludes not only to the biological mechanics of sight, but also to the mechanics of the camera obscura, a projector-like device some art historians believe many

Old Masters may have used. The construction method most apparent in Sperber’s work — using individual bits of color to assemble a larger image — is her nod to modern technology. A computer program breaks her chosen image into pixels, the building block of digital imaging technology.

She translates the pixels into sculpture — her spools of thread, chenille stems or gem stones function as three-dimensional pixels. Her mirrors and lenses operate not only as human eyes and brains but as computers, “zooming out” and pulling the colors together, reforming the picture.

Devorah Sperber, Studio View: After Vermeer 2, 2006, 5,024 spools of thread, stainless steel ball chain and hanging apparatus, clear acrylic viewing sphere, metal stand, 104-122" h x 100" w x 60”-72"d).