Local artist brings the digital realm into the physical world via 3D plexiglass artworks on display at 934 Gallery starting Friday
Like many people, Tyler Bohm spends much of his day staring at a computer screen, which got him thinking about representational painting — the idea that, for centuries, artists mostly painted what they saw right in front of them.
“I'm not looking at landscapes or anything like that. I'm looking at this computer interface, and it has a very specific language of icons and flatness,” said Bohm, who began making artwork inspired by the pixelated panels several years ago. “It's trying to extrapolate from that and create something that's a little bit more three-dimensional. It’s kind of like exploding a computer screen.”
Bohm designs his pieces on the computer and then transports them from the digital realm into the physical world using plexiglass and a laser cutter. He paints the reverse side of the transparent material with acrylic, allowing the bold, smoothed colors to come through. “Each piece has a networking element to it. It's a series of ambiguous shapes that connect to one another,” Bohm said. “They've always, to me, looked a little bit like a gaming console or a smartphone.”
For the first time, Bohm is showing all these pieces together in one exhibition, “Does Not Compute,” which kicks off with an opening reception at 934 Gallery on Friday, Feb. 7.Embrace the digital realm by getting news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Bohm’s day job involves doing research at an architecture firm, and some of those pillars of contemporary industrial design make their way into his work. For instance, while the shapes often begin as rectangles, Bohm rounds off the corners, which lends an air of perceived functionality to some of the pieces, as if they could fit in your pocket when scaled down.
Over time, Bohm developed an artistic lexicon, using about a dozen icons and modules to design the various pieces. “They function a bit like a language, in the sense that the meaning of the pieces comes out of the relationship between the different parts,” he said.
Rather than use text or recognizable symbols, Bohm embraces the pieces’ intentional ambiguity, though the artworks do tend to convey a sense of playfulness and whimsy.
“I am very much a technophile. I'm really intrigued by the possibilities of technology,” said Bohm, who simultaneously acknowledged the challenges technology introduces, from addictive apps to automation’s quest to replace human workers. “Technology is a double-edged sword for most people. … But if you were to look at [‘Does Not Compute’] as somewhere on a spectrum between utopian and dystopian, they skew slightly more towards the utopian — hopeful and optimistic.”