Computer Art Is 'Photographic'

Posted: July 23, 1988

Photography, move over and make way for the computer age. That's the message proclaimed by Chris Wayne's solo show of computer graphics at the Franklin Institute. It reminds us of the fast-growing adversary relationship between computer graphics and photography.

Now that videos and copy-machine art are being routinely included in art exhibits, Wayne is pushing the frontier a bit farther with his use of powerful new tools to produce computer-generated imagery.

He belongs to the second generation of computer-literate artists, people who have brought their concerns about technology alive in art schools and universities, in studios and commercial-production houses.

Yet the location of this show in a science museum seems a throwback to the 1960s, when the world's first "computer art" exhibitions tended to feature research scientists, not artists.

The institute's sponsorship of the show reaffirms those pioneering years and acknowledges the 1980s' broader-based, rampant use of computer graphics that sometimes (but not often, so far) are of high enough quality to serve as finished artwork.

Still, the display's chief significance surely lies in how it encourages us to think about the effect that computer-modeled imagery seems certain to have on photography - possibly, some say, even rendering chemically processed photography obsolete within a decade.

Based on line drawing and colorfully abstract geometric designs, these pictures at first seem to resemble something in a typical art exhibit. Closer inspection, however, reveals them to be synthetic "photographic" images in bright high-tech colors, done by means of algebraic specifications and programming at Wayne's electronic drawing board, and worked on for a long time to produce high-resolution printouts.

Work such as this has a lot more maturing to do before it is truly compelling and its imagery escapes seeming bland. Is it ready to overtake other types of photo-related artistry soon? I seriously doubt it.

Franklin Institute, 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Through Sept. 15. Telephone: 448-1200.

FREE LIBRARY. Fritz Janschka, a key figure in the Vienna school of fantastic realism and formerly artist-in-residence at Bryn Mawr College, shows 50 literary etchings at the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The works are a recent gift from Newman Galleries to the library's permanent collection.

An important theme in Janschka's work has long been the celebration of American and European literary heroes - although never in altogether ordinary human terms.

His dramatic structure varies from one etching to the next, often including elements that are at once functional and symbolic. Regardless of medium, Janschka is particularly gifted in small-scale works.

He brings an unusual sense of refinement to his literary etchings, which depict such figures as Dostoevsky, Voltaire, Dickens, Poe and Twain. Although he approaches his subjects from far away in time, his tone is intimate and each personality is distinct.

Janschka's sensibility in these works is honed to a fine edge so that it responds both unpredictably and intensely. These prints objectify a vast range of memories, ideas and feelings that give each piece a kind of ritualistic dimension. Janschka is remarkable in his ready access to emotion and in his insistance on endowing art with the mystery and sense of the sacred that it had in less secular times.

Free Library of Philadelphia, Logan Square. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through July 31. Telephone: 686-5424.

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