The constant stream of digital information traveling around us over wires and airways is an increasingly recognized phenomenon. Over the past two decades, many artists have begun exploring the seemingly limitless possibilities of digital communication. However, long before the integration of once-mysterious electronic media into the art world in the 1990s, William Larson used a Graphic Sciences DEX 1 Teleprinter to produce some of the earliest digitally generated artworks, in his series Fireflies (1969–78). The DEX 1—a sophisticated predecessor to the fax machine of the 1970s and the computer technology developed in the 1980s—allowed Larson to translate sound (music and voice), text, and photographic elements into electronic signals that were then transmitted over a telephone line and burned into carbon paper by the device’s stylus, rendering what he calls a high-definition “electronic drawing.” Each unique, grayscale print combines graphic marks and photo collage to produce a visual stutter of image, text, and line; like a cross-section of a hurricane, Larson’s work highlights possible instants in the continuum of images electronically whirling around us everyday.
Strongly influenced by László Moholy-Nagy and Constructivist collages from the early 20th century, Larson treats both image and text as decontextualized signs. While their original denotations cannot be ignored—body parts, plants, clouds, and lettering remain recognizable—the combination of these references in the untitled compositions become a garbled visual language that speaks as if in tongues to our cultural understanding of what images signify. In one print, negatives of faces become floating black masks while the majority of a nude male torso and legs hang from the top edge, and a man with a black bar over his eyes is positioned at the bottom edge next to a corner of clouds. Scraps of words form uneven horizons; the legible sections read, “documented medical evidence indicates that’s exactly what,” “Noo,” “see,” and “does.” A viewer’s natural impulse to decode these fractured messages echoes the sensation of trying to recall a disintegrating memory; it feels like there must be a relationship between the elements, but the points are too far apart to make any real connection.
From the Daily Serving online posting on May 21, 2015. Read the full article here.