Tam Van Tran, 3D Printer, 2013, Copper, palm leaf and glue on wood panel, 51 1/4 x 39 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (Anthony Meier Fine Arts photo)

Beginning in November, 2015, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB) presents a solo exhibition of Los Angeles-based mixed media artist Tam Van Tran. 

The latest iteration of Bloom Projects, which will go on view the same day, debuts a newly commissioned site-specific installation by Brooklyn-based artist Michael DeLucia, whose work addresses the condition of sculpture and spatial relationships in the technological age.

An opening reception for both exhibits will be held from 6–8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. They will be on view from Nov. 15, 2015 to Feb. 21, 2016.

Tam Van Tran, “Aikido Dream”

Since the early 1990s, Tam Van Tran, who lives and works in Los Angeles, has been producing an impressive body of work comprising abstract paintings, mixed-media collages, ceramic tiles and sculpture.

By mixing traditional art materials such as linen and acrylic with unconventionally applied organic substances (including spirulina, chloroform, wood, staples and aluminum foil), Tran creates colorful and highly textural works that formally and thematically syncretize Eastern and Western influences.

Tran’s intricate techniques extend the field of painting while incorporating imagery and materials laden with references to his native Vietnam, his adopted home of Los Angeles, spiritual concepts and myriad other cultural references.

Tran’s solo exhibition at MCASB, titled “Aikido Dream,” which features a selection of approximately 20 works from the 2000s to the present, serves as a vehicle for understanding the nature of the artistic process rather than presenting a chronological or mid-career retrospective. 

Aikido, often translated as “the way of unifying (with) life energy” or “the way of harmonious spirit,” represents a synthesis of physical and philosophical beliefs. 

“Aikido Dream” also reflects Tran’s interest in meditation, our environment and his belief in intuition and transience, realms in which nothing is fixed and everything is in motion.

This exhibition offers a nuanced platform to understand his artistic trajectory, providing a framework that fosters an investigation of his long-standing, iterative interests in religious thought (particularly the Buddhist idea of non-duality) and pop culture, as well as natural processes and transitions. 

In this spirit of ethnic and processual diversity, even Tran’s titles are delightfully unexpected cultural fusions, evoking both indie song phrases and meditative koans.

Bloom Projects: Michael DeLucia, “Appearance Preserving Simplification”

Michael DeLucia, who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y., uses sculpture and installation to suggest a conflict between the digital and physical realms, underscoring a growing tension between the abstract and the real.

Michael DeLucia, Exhibition view, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Brussels, 2014.

Michael DeLucia, Exhibition view, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Brussels, 2014.  (Galerie Nathalie Obadia photo)

At the core of DeLucia’s artistic practice is humanity’s changing phenomenological and spatial relationship to 3D experiences, particularly in regard to increased mediation by digital references and territories.

“I wonder about the condition of sculpture in the technological age,” comments DeLucia, who observes that “today we work on the computer, which is an abstract and spatially fragmented place, and 99 percent of people will only see an exhibition on-line.”

DeLucia blurs typical associations of digital and physical realms by sculpting via online tools and by allowing a computer to create the physical carving.  

He begins his process by selecting stock models from online software catalogs (think: clip art or digital ready-mades), typically sourced by architects and animation/video game artists to develop 3D modeling.  

He manipulates the images by stretching and compressing them; then programs them into a computer-controlled router (CNC) that carves the impressions into formica and plywood sheets.

For MCASB’s next Bloom Projects, DeLucia will convert the gallery and reception area into a corporate-styled waiting area, using faux versions of luxurious architectural materials.

Using elements from virtual environments of CAD workspaces, video games and CGI films, DeLucia applies these references to the physical space at MCASB tohighlight the disparity between the illusion of screen-based media and the reality of 3D space.

The artist will project virtual objects onto the room, cutting the objects’ impressions into physical surfaces with a CNC router. The flawless precision of the machined surfaces will allow for a seamless illusion, and the result will be an uncanny and generic environment that lacks specificity in its form.  

The room’s contents (such as chairs, desk, fish tank, coffee table, magazines, etc.) will be carved into the medium, revealing a true materiality that is often concealed. The work will materialize as a fragmented space where mundane objects have left ghostly remains as they have entered a more abstracted reality.

This work is newly commissioned by MCASB.
— Rebecca Klapper represents Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara