Military Maneuvers With Computer and Color
By HILARIE M. SHEETS
Published: March 5, 2006
From the day when Eric Chan and Heather Schatz switched seats in a figure drawing class as undergraduates at the University of California, Berkeley, and finished each others' compositions, they have engaged in a back and forth that underpins all of their art. Producing work under the name ChanSchatz since graduating in 1990, the two artists (who are husband and wife) have since expanded their collaboration to include an ever-widening pool of guests as they explore how different ideas and groups of people intersect in contemporary life.
ChanSchatz invites friends, artists, students, local merchants and, most recently, members of the American military based in Iraq, to choose from colors, text phrases and forms culled from the artists' vast drawing archive. Their selections become the springboard for large-scale silk-screen works that are abstract yet still reflect the participants.
Next weekend, "PTG.32 APUS" (short for "Painting No. 32, Art Project United States"), a collective "portrait" of 24 military men and women, from an Army private to a Marine Corps captain, goes on view in "Here and There," an exhibition of ChanSchatz's work at Massimo Audiello in Chelsea.
The starting point for the artists was a realization that while the troops' presence in Iraq was woven into daily American culture, they did not personally know any of the soldiers. The artists connected with military personnel through groups like the Freedom Calls, a foundation that keeps members of the military in touch with family through communication stations in Iraq.
Using an interactive Web page featuring 12 phrases, 28 color combinations and 32 motifs by the artists that they refer to as characters, participants selected elements they liked. To represent each individual, ChanSchatz used that person's chosen motif and colors; the selected phrase of text governed how each element acted within the work. The artists were struck by how receptive the troops were to collaborating, given that the New York art world could seem as distant to them as the war seemed to the artists.
More than half the troops chose the phrase "globally linked," which directed how ChanSchatz organized a 14-foot-long panoramic composition. The work reads as a vista, with a push between the two dark areas at either end and a bright, explosive expanse in between. It's hard to tell which terrain is getting the upper hand. [read on...]