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Jim Pomeroy / MATRIX 13

September 1, 1978 - October 31, 1978

Jim Pomeroy: Light Weight Phantoms (installation view), 1977; slides presented with stereo-optic device; lent by the artist.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

The subject of Jim Pomeroy's art is perception in the broad sense of the term. Through a blend of fantasy, technology, social commentary and modern aesthetics, his art questions basic assumptions about the way we understand the world around us.

Parody and satire are key elements in Pomeroy's works to date, a majority of which reflect a cynicism of the concept that art and technology are historically progressive. Many of Pomeroy's works involve the employment of homemade technologies and apparatus. A tinkerer of sorts, his studio houses an array of devices modeled after 18th and 19th century inventions, which Pomeroy adapts to incorporate current forms of technology. For example, Newt Ascending Astaire's Face, 1974, is essentially a 19th century predecessor of a modern movie projector which when put in motion depicts a lizard crawling over a photograph of Fred Astaire, creating a visual parody and verbal pun of the painting Nude Descending A Staircase, 1912, by Marcel Duchamp. Face Music, 1975, one of a series of updated "music boxes" Pomeroy has invented, consists of two pocket watches worn as stereo headphones and tuned so that their ticking synchronizes every fifteen seconds. This work may be seen as an oblique parody of the concept of "phase" music pioneered by John Cage, Charles Ives and Steve Reich.

Pomeroy questions art theories which espouse notions of uniqueness and the artist as spiritual guide. He presents his inquiries into the conceptual relationships between art and technology in as simple and easily understood manner as possible. He is the first to explain away any mysterious or overtly complex connotations a viewer might attach to his works. His pragmatic approach to technology and modern art history are an attempt to address a new clarity in our understanding of these phenomena.

Recently, Pomeroy has become involved in creating stereo-optic installations. Light Weight Phantoms, 1977 and Making the World Safe for Geometry, 1977-78, two works which Pomeroy is presenting in MATRIX, make use of a large, homemade stereoscope based on the 1832 invention by the English physicist Charles Wheatstone. In both works a series of double-image slide projections are cast on opposite, parallel walls of the gallery from a carousel projector; the paired images on each slide are split by a mirror arrangement. The audience views the work one at a time by looking into two large, obliquely angled viewing mirrors which results in the illusion of a solid, three-dimensional image. Light Weight Phantoms consists of a series of images of gestural loop-to-loops of photographed light which, when manipulated by Pomeroy and projected through his machine, appear as solid spiraling forms floating in three-dimensional space. The images were created by simply moving a light bulb within the shared focus of two Polaroid 'Super Shooters' set up in a dark room. Originally developed and exhibited at the Exploratorium, a multi-media science museum in San Francisco, the work is essentially a form of photographic sculpture.

Making the World Safe for Geometry consists of a series of fantasized monumental sculptures. Manipulating a series of postcard cityscapes from around the world, Pomeroy presents a series of abstract public sculptures which are both formally sophisticated and, ultimately, impossible to realize. The work represents both a conceptual extension and parody of modern public sculpture.

Pomeroy also presents his ideas via public performance. These performances are characterized by the same spirit of irony and humor that is apparent in his other work. Characteristically, they are casual and deadpan demonstrations of an invented apparatus, process or visual narrative. Chorus Line, 1975 takes the form of a peep-show installation. The artist describes the work as "A Dance for Naval Skills. A dozen dancers spell 'chorus' in Morse by lifting their shirts and flashing bellies at a row of wide-angle security viewers mounted on the wall." (Undated notes by the artist). In Composition in Deed, 1975, Pomeroy, along with other participants, uses a slingshot to gradually destroy a "Salon Painting" created by a grid of 256 mirrors which reflect their surroundings.

In November the artist will travel to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut to present a series of recent performances for MATRIX/HARTFORD. The specific performances to be presented have not been determined at the time of this writing. Along with the performances in Hartford, Pomeroy will present Apollo Jest, 1978. Essentially a tongue-in-cheek documentary of America's Apollo moon landing, the work consists of 125 stereoscopic images experienced through 3-D viewing glasses. The images are accompanied by a 12 minute taped narration prepared by Pomeroy and presented by Nancy Blanchard. Mixing "found" and staged photographic images with an occasional photo of the actual Apollo mission, Pomeroy's audio/visual presentation attempts, as he put it, "to disprove the rumor that the Apollo mission never occurred, that the whole event was staged on a Hollywood backlot." (Conversation with the artist, August 13, 1978).

Jim Pomeroy was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1945. He graduated from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1968 (BFA) and the University of California, Berkeley in 1972 (MFA). He is currently Chairman of the sculpture department of the San Francisco Art Institute, and is co-founder of 80 Langton Street, an alternative exhibition space in the South of Market Street area of San Francisco. Pomeroy lives in San Francisco.

Michael Auping

MATRIX is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal Agency.