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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Plastic Fantastic: Amazing 3-D Printed Art at Compound Gallery

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge NATHANIEL WILLIAMS
  • Nathaniel Williams

The Compound Gallery
in Oakland is housed in what looks to be a whitewashed Spanish Mission. The interior is warm with natural light that streams in from skylights, open doorways, and high-placed windows. The inside walls, too, are white, and the combined effect of whiteness and sunshine highlights the colorful artwork on display and the bodies commingling and wandering around.

The space is large — 12,000 square feet — and unexpectedly comforting. Artist studios (in various phases of disarray and production) line the back half of the building in what might have once been stables for horses. Park benches abut a bubbling cement fountain, a placement that inspired one woman to concentrate on her knitting. Sturdy, papier-mâché globes and moons hang from the rafters. Bric-a-brac oddities populate every corner, in cabinets and cubbyholes.

click to enlarge NATHANIEL WILLIAMS
  • Nathaniel Williams

click to enlarge NATHANIEL WILLIAMS
  • Nathaniel Williams
Walking through the main entrance, however, is the current exhibition gallery featuring Superstrata: 3D Printed Art. Layer after layer of resin, steel, wax, or even food, is printed out by an “industrial robot,” or 3D printer. Examples of these robot printers live in the adjacent wing next door (the "Institute of Fabrefaction"), where they endlessly clatter away, building and building objects (aka “additive manufacturing”).

The first pieces that grab your attention are doll-sized replicas of men and women, dyed vibrantly and reminiscent of action figures, but halved or somehow otherwise incomplete, giving off a sense of waxy blindness or figures trapped in (plastic) amber.

One large table is covered in miniature towers resembling organic life forms — amoeba, protozoa, shiitake mushrooms — hand-colored by the artist Tom Burtonwood. Collectively, they are the Delicate Flowers of the Athrobscene; the implication is that this is a garden plucked from someone’s backyard on Neptune. Were they to be displayed separately or behind glass, you could marvel more at their wobbly, dyspeptic individuality.

Elsewhere, Steven Fragale arguably created the loveliest piece, Bronze Necklace, that was easy to miss. Inspired by the Aztecs, or perhaps the Egyptians, its muted matte turquoise lent it the appearance of dug up ruin. Isaac Budmen’s two shelves held playful riffs on what looked like a computer’s idea of children’s toys: a featureless black cat, interconnected honey-toned hexagons, a lumpy green creature. All were accompanied by their package-designed boxes; Paxton Gate carries similar items.

Gallery workers in white lab coats scanned patrons willing to shell out $65 for a 3D plastic cast of themselves. One man posed with his guitar while a lab-coated female held a tablet device to map his contours. You could almost see his bloodstream transforming into digital atoms, the reels of colored plastic in the Institute melting in place to reform as his simulacrum in miniature. Now that the price of a robot printer is within reach of ordinary people, Superstrata might just inspire you to get one and try it out at home.

, through Sept. 6, at the Compound Gallery, 1167 65th St., Oakland, 510-601-1702.

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