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Stan VanDerBeek, Micro Cosmos, 1983 - Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York
Stan VanDerBeek: Form Comes Out of Chaos
July 6 – August 12, 2017
Towards the end of his life, in the early '80s, pioneering computer artist and avant-garde filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek came to Lexington to work on a series of videos for Kentucky Educational Television (KET), thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Arts under a grant for experiments in video. To follow the artist’s process, KET produced a documentary, Form Comes Out of Chaos, which was released in 1984 and became one of the last records of the artist’s life and work. To this day, it’s unclear what drew him to Lexington.
It was at Black Mountain College that VanDerBeek, surrounded by a community of artists invested in experimentation and the implementation of new visual paradigms, was able to refine and expand his creative practice. Constantly working with new technologies throughout his career, in the mid-'60s, he began using computers to generate animated short films during a residency at Bell Labs. Collaborating with programmer Ken Knowlton, he used BEFLIX (Bell Labs Flicks) to create “expanded cinema” works that have since served as precursors to the computer-generated imagery (CGI) technologies used in films today. Like many of his contemporaries, his work was driven by a political voice, ultimately bent towards the pursuit of a utopian aesthetic.
VanDerBeek’s filmworks produced in Kentucky were no exception. One of the films, After Laughter, follows a figure functioning as a stand-in for humankind that performs increasingly destructive and violent tasks, ultimately driven to obliteration. The work, meant as a condemnation of nuclear war—a threat that once again seems relevant—was included in the 1983 Whitney Biennial. The other two works made during his time at KET, Micro Cosmos 1-4, and Self-Poured Traits, speak to VanDerBeek’s utopian pursuit, especially his belief that democratic access to technology and the establishment of a global communication network would lead to a more equitable world.
Whether this has occurred, now that these networks exist, remains to be seen.
Stan VanDerBeek: Form Comes Out of Chaos will be the first public screening of the artist's videos in Lexington.
During his lifetime, Stan VanDerBeek held artist residencies at Bell Labs, NASA, and KET. His work was shown at national and international exhibitions and film festivals, including the 1974 Cannes Film Festival and 1983 Whitney Biennial. In more recent years, his films and video installations have been featured in a major retrospective exhibition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) List Visual Arts Center (Cambridge, MA) in 2011, the 2013 Venice Biennale, and Art Basel Unlimited 2017 with The Box (Los Angeles, CA).
This exhibition has been made possible thanks to Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), The Estate of Stan VanDerBeek, Kentucky Educational Television (KET), and Robert Beatty.