We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Pockets
art review ABQ, 2017, Vol. 12, p. 10
Upon walking into Graft Gallery for Calvin Burgstahler’s solo exhibition of paintings entitled We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Pockets, I quickly realized that the artist had integrated elements of augmented reality, photography, and technology in order to heighten the viewers experience of the work. At first glance, the figure in Burgstahler’s paintings seem to be under a critical eye of the artist who is choosing to paint them in a way that there identity is mysteriously withheld from us. What is striking about the body language that he is capturing is that the figures are positioned in a way that they appear to be engaging with a cell phone, or other piece of technology, but again the device is never quite rendered for the viewer to discern anything being held. The figures in his painting all seem lonely despite the fact that most are placed in a public place, and sometimes appearing directly next to another figure, seemingly not caring or knowing anyone is physically there. An enigmatic color surrounds each of the figures in Burgstahler’s paintings that creates a beautiful highlight that silhouettes them vividly. I attribute the feeling of immediate gratification to these color auras in the sense that the figure has discovered the entire world in their pocket.
Up till a point in my art viewing experience of this show I began to notice the interactions of the other people in the gallery with the work. The artist has given instruction on a podium in the middle of the gallery to pick up a provided tablet with an app called AURASMA to then interact with his paintings. With this devise on a camera mode, when you would place Burgstahler’s paintings in the frame, they would change in the screen to photographs taken by the artist that loosely inspired his paintings. Burgstahler talks abut constantly taking photographs for inspiration, and utilizes a snapshot, street style of photography style that is present in his photographs, and his paintings. What I found most interesting about this process of engagement with the work was that the very action that he was critiquing, the body language and the social interactions that are created through our use of digital technology, was the very thing that he was encouraging his viewer to participate in. The artist is actively asking the question of whether these technologies enhance or diminish the quality of our lives, so I would like to ask the question back, ‘did you learn anything through making the viewers of your work participate in the very thing you are asking yourself?’
What I saw that night were people interacting with artwork in a way I had never seen before, utilizing the latest technology in order to view a classic art medium, and having a great social experience while doing it. People were talking, laughing, and also interacting with technology, and this seemed to be the opposite feeling that I received from the lonely, dreary figures he has created in his paintings. There seems to be a push and pull of whether or not the artist is down playing the role of technology in our lives, or exalting it.
I give this show a 9 out of 10 in the fact that it is fun, and exciting on multiple levels. I recommend this immersive art experience to people of all ages. You can find Graft Galley at 1415 4th Street SW, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102. You can show up to the show even more prepared if you download the AURASMA before arriving.