A Knotty String of Life: Art Vandenberg at Poem 88
July 10, 2018, Jerry Cullum, burnaway.org/review/art-vandenberg-poem-88/
Art Vandenberg’s combined fascination with mathematics and the art practice of indigenous cultures come together in the very short-run exhibition “#Day25,000” at Poem 88, which closes this Saturday, July 14. The seeming chaos of brightly colored boards, nails and knotted cords hung in parallel lines are in reality a completely logical shorthand for the days of Vandenberg’s life as of the June 30 opening, his 25,000th day since emerging from the womb.
The exhibition could be approached by way of Vandenberg’s utterly serious explication of how knots provided a way of recording information, including time, for the cultures of the Andes, where knotted cords were often combined with sticks, and how time itself derives from the knotty structures of spacetime and of the neural cliques with which we perceive it. Alternately, the viewer could pay attention to the things themselves, the tied bundles and bow structures and rows of tacks and nails that form Vandenberg’s private symbolism based on a very public history of the meanings imposed on or found within knot tying.
Either way, the achievement is dazzling, and the knowledge that it is based on objects picked up along the way during what Vandenberg’s calls his “walkabouts,” his long-distance walks around Metro Atlanta, only magnifies the intensity of admiration. If there is a current debate about the difference between cultural hybridity and cultural appropriation, Vandenberg’s oeuvre definitely falls into the category of integral hybridity; he has woven (or knotted) together so many visual and intellectual strands from so many different cultures that the outcome is a mythology (or a symbol set) of one, even as it reaches for universality in terms of what makes us human and what makes the universe itself what it is.
The specifics of each piece relate to how, to the best of Vandenberg’s recollection, the days of a particular year played out for him. The sheer variety indicates that he has had as richly complex a life as he has a career as incidental art maker—incidental because his day jobs in information technology have more often led in the direction of the dematerialized digital realm than into the depths of matter in all its sensuous variety as it appears in this show.
This exhibition is time-specific, and because of Poem 88’s summer exhibition schedule, the time is short. Would-be viewers intrigued by the whole project might be further spurred by the knowledge that objects separate from the numbering of Vandenberg’s days can be had here for as little as $50.
Review: Poem 88’s “Correspondences” series brings us back to balance
July 7, 2017; Rebecca Brantley, artsatl.com
I love the conceit of Poem 88’s summer series Correspondences, a series of short exhibitions inspired by the Swedish scientist, theologian and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg (1668–1772). But you don’t have to understand the mystic thinker’s ideas in order to get it. Correspondences references the notion that instances of good mitigate bad in order to restore balance.
Correspondences began Saturday, June 17, with the reception for Art Vandenberg’s Steles, photographs and sculptures made to celebrate and honor the natural world. Using found, simple materials, Vandenberg erected simple, temporary monuments while taking walks along the shore for this body of the work. Most of the show consists of photography in the form of 13- to 15-inch acrylic-mounted digital archival prints, though there are a few sculptures made of found boards, sticks, canvas, rope and other materials, too.
The photographs rely on the artist’s subtle arrangement of found objects that he encounters on walks. Shorn of its former marker, a rusty road sign post augmented by three carefully balanced stones is the subject of Stele – 3 Stone (2017). The stacked rocks recall Andy Goldsworthy’s manipulations of nature, but Vandenberg’s work seems neither derivative nor unnecessary. It’s significant that Vandenberg not only uses the physical components of the environment but also human-made objects, too. Simple but effective, Steles pictures a partially darkened plank upright in the sand against a cloudless blue sky. Notwithstanding its beachy appeal, it is eerily monolithic. Kubrick’s quintessentialmonolith comes to mind, as do its many associations with technology, humanity and history.
Despite the connections of the show to Swedenborg (and by extension the often technophobic romantics and transcendentalists he inspired), Vandenberg’s work takes a slightly different slant. Vandenberg studied both art and information and computer science at the advanced level, earning master’s degrees from Georgia State University and Georgia Tech. Perhaps his ideology reflects his dual backgrounds. Vandenberg ascribes to transhumanism, which advocates an anti-essentialist embrace of technology. Simply put, technology is a good thing that can improve human lives. Thus, Vandenberg’s choice of camera — the one on his phone — is perfect. Not only does it embrace new media, it has an egalitarian undertone: to me it suggests that snapping photos of a sunset or even a guilty-pleasure selfie does not really interfere with the authenticity of a moment but rather commemorates it.
Vandenberg’s #Tipis are on long-term display in the adjacent Floataway Community Center, offering a further correspondence and deeper insight into his practice. Inspired by the catalog for the Met show The Plains Indians: Artists of the Earth and Sky, the symbology is intricately developed, reminiscent of ancient pictographs. The #Tipis stand for key moments for the artist. #WalkaboutTipi, for example, represents the pivotal year in Vandenberg’s life when he transitioned back to art-making after a career in information technology. However, I find the #Tipis less effective than the simpler Steles photographs. Further, despite genuine respect for the artist’s developed system of personal iconography, I find them potentially problematic due to the appropriation of Native American culture.
The reception for Steles also included a “cleansing” performance by Karen Tauches and Stephen Fenton. The experimental augmentation of snippets of news broadcasts by Fenton was accompanied by bell sounds by Tauches. Ultimately, these events and exhibitions are more than pleasing sounds and pretty pictures of nature; they are optimistic calls to action.
Again — yes, please.
Deep in the Mix: REMIX & ReMIXED Reality at Ann Arbor Art Center
June 27, 2017; Elizabeth Smith, Pulp@aadl.org
Art Vandenberg's Running Man is a series of images taken on the artist's iPhone. This is part of a "walkabout" series in which the artist sought to gain inspiration from the moment, from NOW, as he writes in his artist statement. He asks, “If a symmetry in my life is walking, what value is conserved?” and then answers by stating, ”What is conserved in my life is NOW, this intersection of past and future possibilities.” Concerned with symmetry and the scientific ideas surrounding conservation of information, patterns, and geometry, Vandenberg explores what it means to make art with the awareness of the seemingly “inconsequential in the vastness of time space.” On his website, he describes this project as the Nth Derivative, defining it as such:
Nth-Derivatives seeks higher order derivatives of the function of being.
Art-making is a first derivative of the function of being.
Photo-documentation of art is a second derivative.
Processing photo-documentation into a photo montage explores higher order Nth derivatives.
Running Man depicts a structure of driftwood in the sand, repeated from slightly different perspectives in 30 frames, stacked on top of one another in a digital photo montage. This seemingly mundane composition is a commentary, then, on the documentation of art, which is, according to Vandenberg, a second derivative of the function of being.
Juried art exhibition opens at Gertrude Herbert Institute
September 23, 2016; Dr. Tom Mack, Aiken Standard
Psychology or the exploration of inner space is paramount in some pieces. Consider the pen and ink rendering by Art Vandenberg entitled “Quantum Differentiation Shield.” Using some of the ideas stemming from the study of quantum geometry, the artist has created an ever-expanding spiral composed of individual segments. To the right of this central image is a “key” to the 11 basic designs used to fill in each segment of the spiral. The application of these registered designs, how- ever, is non-commutative. Thus, the principal figure, which swirls out from a central core, appears to be the largely subconscious product of random accretion…
Jul 13, 2016; Pat Johnson, The Sandpiper
Art Vandenberg was more conceptual and dispassionate when he created his tour de force, “Kimono: kinetic information modulated objective neuron self-organization (space-time continuum fabric)” in pen and ink, which garnered him an honorable mention. His drawings explore the ideas of self-organized memory from the perspective of quantum physics. “I modeled this by making a random mark, then successively adding marks, remembering the growing sequence of marks. … Using a grid-like structure, I filled each cell with the gray sets of marks until a completely filled cell is created and then I remove a mark proceeding by successively ‘un-remembering’ marks until I return to a blank state – A reasonable analogy to life (where) each moment is adding or losing information.”...
Widening its GPS coverage area, the High Museum of Art has announced it will present a sequel this summer to its popular 2013 exhibition of Atlanta-based artists “Drawing Inside the Perimeter.”…In The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s review, critic Felicia Feaster wrote, “It’s hard to think of a moment in the past 20 years when the High offered such a profound, far-reaching and impressive celebration of Atlanta’s unique artistic achievements…"