The colors displayed on a computer screen or other digital device rarely demand a second thought — until, that is, you view “Transcolorations,” an art exhibit at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown.
The series of wall panels, sculptures and photographs bring a physical reality to color — as represented by bits of data on our cell phones and laptops — to a whole new reality.
“At first, people look [at the work] and say, ‘oh, that’s beautiful’,” said artist Jon Malis. “But then they start to think about how they experience color on their devices.”
An assistant professor of photography at Loyola University in Baltimore, Malis used 3D printing, photography and sculpture to physically display the shapes of how color is digitally encoded.
While science-based, the result is an almost hypnotic display of color in seemingly organic forms. The art manages to be both beautiful and instructive.
“I’m always thinking of the best way to visualize color for my students because color variability is huge in digital photography,” Malis said. “Colors vary from device to device, and students are often let down by the printed color.”
And for good reason. Despite the fact that colors are digitally stored as a specific, standardized number, when Malis pulls up the color ‘red’ on his laptop, it displays 18 different color blocks of varying shades.
“Color is very subjective on digital devices,” he said. “But its also the building block of our lives. We work on our computers; we play on our computers. The colors we see on our devices are how we experience life.
That variability is reflected in a series of four-foot tall aluminum panels of richly saturated colors undulating within a free-form shape.
“Transferring photos to aluminum panels — something like a T-shirt transfer — is a technique used mostly in Europe,” Malis said. “They’re abstract, but they also a meditative quality if you focus on the color variations.”
He also used 3-D printers to create a series of small sculptures that represent a digital color dataset, bringing form to what is otherwise a binary code.
“This is truly a unique approach, combining photography, 3-D printing and sculpture,” said Anne Burton, BlackRock’s gallery director. “The show encompasses a lot in one exhibit and is not what most people would expect from a photographer.”
Jon Malis’ “Transcolorations” will be on view through Aug. 25 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The artist will present a talk and tour of the exhibit from 1 to 3 p.m. on Aug. 25. Call 301-528-2260 or visit www.blackrockcenter.org.