Alan Rath, a trailblazer in the realm of electronic, robotic, and computer-generated art, has been selected for inclusion in Art Basel's upcoming online viewing room, Pioneers, based on his seminal contributions to the field. The San Francisco artist died in October 2020 at age 60 after battling a rare form of multiple sclerosis for many years.
From a lineage that includes Jean Tinguely and Nam June Paik, Alan Rath began in the 1980s to make sculptures with robotics and computer-generated video animations, which he designed, machined, and programmed himself. Formally elegant and meticulously crafted, yet playful and unpredictable, his leitmotif was the relationship between the mechanical/technological and the human body and behaviors.
Rath infuses his mechanical sculptures with life-like characteristics. LCD screens display body parts moving in algorithmically generated sequences of shifting colors, tempos, and orientation. The features portrayed are those particular to perception and expression, such as eyes, mouths, and hands. Likewise, the robotic sculptures incorporate feathers that simulate the motion of living creatures.
Rath has designed his works so that they go to sleep when left alone, and wake up when they sense a person in the room (via an infrared sensor). Because the imagery and robotic movements are programmed to enact a different pattern of sequences each time they are activated, each new encounter is an unpredictable experience. Although a part of us recognizes these as mediated images and mechanical movements, the essential animate qualities that Rath is able to evoke, integrated into elegantly crafted structures, impart a familiar consciousness that is at once humorous and uncanny.
Hosfelt Gallery's presentation of Rath's work is one of only five selected by guest curator Sabine Himmelsbach, Director of Haus der Elektronischen Künste, for a VIP Zoom walk-through at 11am PT Wednesday March 24.
VIP Preview: March 24, 6am PT
Public days: March 25 – 27, through 4pm PT