Typically if I’m entranced in front of a television monitor it’s because the narrative plot of whatever I’m watching has got me gripped. Well there’s no storyline in any of the six videos Anne Morgan Spalter is exhibiting in her debut New York solo, “Traffic Circle,” but the visuals are so hypnotically mesmerizing it’s easy to stare yourself into a state of spellbound captivation. Fans of psychedelic art will try to herald Spelter’s videos as ideal specimens, and though they have nothing to do with the effects of ingesting mind-bending substances, an affinity towards transcendental experience is there just the same.
Spalter could be described as a landscape artist working with digital media. Her process begins by filming predominantly urban subject matter: highways, traffic lights, power stations, Rockefeller Center. This can be both banal and dangerous; she’s filmed vehicles speeding along from the overpass of I-95 and hung out a window forty-five stories up in a New York high rise. You recognize these things, fleetingly, and then they melt into highly orchestrated fractal patterns that seem to unfold endlessly.
All six of the videos were produced this year and they all have a three-minute running time. While no two videos are quite the same they share a fundamental kaleidoscopic arrangement that focuses the shifting movement on a central point. The colors too are all unique. In Sunrise over Rockefeller cool shades between indigo and blue needle into one another until the creeping warmth of what’s got to be dawn’s glow spreads across the screen. Traffic Light looks like an exotic flower blooming in fast forward or a split kiwi becoming a blood orange becoming a lemon with rainbow seeds and a metal stem.
Spalter comes from an academic background. She holds degrees in mathematics and painting, and has written an authoritative textbook on the application of computers in visual art. While her videos could be denigrated as elaborate screen savers they could just as easily be compared to the intricate designs of Islamic art. I prefer the latter, especially when considering the implications of spiritual visions of interconnectedness directed at urban infrastructure. The complex orders of operation necessary for our metropolises appear distilled into geometric patterns that we inherently identify with natural forms. In Antenna, a metal spike we recognize as a transmitter or receiver of information gracefully morphs into a snowflake constantly recreating itself.
For works such as these the display screen is a crucial component. Three of the videos run on sleek wall mounted plasmas. These are smaller though much richer than I-95, which is projected from the ceiling down onto a wall. The other two videos play on laptop size screens that sit on stylized black easels as if they were canvases. This last option forces unnecessary comparisons with the history of landscape painting that do little to enhance the work’s intense visual appeal.
This past summer Spalter’s videos were shown on a thirty-foot LCD screen as part of Leaders in Software Art (LISA). It must have been a whopper of a thing to behold, like seeing Marilyn Minter’s luscious video selections, Chewing Color (2009), looped on a big screen in Times Square back in 2009. It seems perfectly natural that Spalter’s videos play in public spaces, hopefully that’ll happen again and hopefully I won’t miss it.
All of the show’s videos can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/annespalterstudios
Images: still from National Grid; still from Interstate 95. Courtesy Stephan Stoyanov Gallery.