A Rose By Another Name

ChanSchatz integrates external data and elements of chance

This is the second show of work by ChanSchatz, a collaborative effort between Heather Schatz and Eric Chan, who are also husband and wife. The large abstract work, almost epic in feel, is also a collaborative effort with others—specifically, in the present show, U.S. Army soldiers stationed in Iraq and neighbors in the Meat Packing District where the ChanSchaatz studio is.

ChanSchatz determines the look of the work through a series of chance-like operations and digital manipulations. The whole process is so immersed in a pseudo-binary lingo that it’s hard to determine exactly who does what and precisely how much of the look of the work is determined by chance.

The process begins with a library of images that ChanSchatz has created in part by drawing and then using computer manipulation. The images resemble symbols, medallions, or language. They are generally symmetrical and have a similarity to insect and or to machine parts. Invited participants are given a questionnaire of sorts and asked to select their favorites from a group of images or characters, color combinations, and a series of poetic, theoretical phrases.

In the instance of the piece on Iraq, this process was conducted via an interactive Web site. The information from the participants is then processed and arranged in painting or design format and then screen printed on silk. The results resemble apocalyptic Pucci for the space age. What determines hierarchy within the picture is not exactly clear, but for all the language—one piece is called an architectural accessory—the finished pictures owe a lot to symbolist abstraction and the history of design conventions.

ChanSchatz seem compelled to cloak the whole operation in a crypto-mathematical code of language. This is, of course, a minor beef about what is otherwise rather engaging work.

The vast outer space look is not new, nor is the color. Somehow, perhaps mesmerized by the language and convolutions of the methods, ChanSchatz manages to produce provocative and very beautiful work. It seems to this viewer that a lot more personal esthetic choices are made than the collaborative will lay claim to.

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