Martin Venezky: The New Machinery
Martin Venezky is playing with perception, moving between analog and digital darkrooms to create new ideas and as his title of his project suggests, New Machinery. “Breaking down the act of seeing into small units is the starting point for “The New Machinery.” I use scavenged metal, glass, and plastic to produce thousands of small material and light studies. When I pin these abstract prints into overlapping compositions, the elements either dissolve into each other or become dissonant adversaries. Content forms in the relationships between the parts, as they build into logical, narrative constructions which, when translated back into digital form, become flattened, stylized images. I’ve labeled these mysterious contraptions The New Machinery — a photographic science fiction cobbled together from discarded utilitarian parts.”
The manual labor of creating work about machines that labor on our behalf is an interesting exercise. As machines become obsolete at record speed and at the same time remove us further and further from the physicality of construction, New Machinery is a timely exploration of process as we move into an era when communication is also a tool of surveillance.
Martin Venezky is a designer and artist based in San Francisco. Throughout his career as a graphic designer, Venezky has maintained a deep interest in photographic process and abstraction. For the past several years, he has created new bodies of work in photography and photographic installation.
Venezky has an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and an MFA in Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has taught at RISD and CalArts and, for over 25 years, at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he is currently Professor in the Graduate Design Program. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art honored Venezky with a 2001 solo exhibition, and, in 2005, his monograph, It Is Beautiful…Then Gone, was published by Princeton Architectural Press. In 2015 Venezky was inducted into the esteemed Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI). And in 2018, San Francisco’s Letterform Archive acquired an extensive collection of his work, studies and process for their permanent collection.
The New Machinery
The New Machinery is a form of photographic science fiction. The work references the barely visible mechanisms that surround our everyday life — sometimes as camouflaged presence, often as digital software. Through this work I try to give seductive and sinister physicality to the networks that charm their way into our lives while surveilling our movements and collecting our data. As we look at them they are most certainly looking back at us.
These images are pieced together from material and light studies that I perform on scavenged tools, toys, materials and appliances. I am interested in how the camera crunches these disassembled parts down further into gestures of light and structure. This generative process breaks apart the complicated act of seeing into small units — building blocks with which I construct large scale physical compositions.
These machines might have quietly evolved from mountains of discarded hardware and in the same way, the image arises slowly as parts find each other and form relationships — an additive, analog process that creates logic and narrative from the inside out. As a final crucial step, I use the physical construction as a map to rebuild the image in a digital format, crossing media once again to retranslate the image into a flattened, stylized product.
I’ve labeled these mysterious contraptions The New Machinery as a nod towards the recycled materials and the machine-like logic in their creation and perception. Cobbled together from discarded utilitarian parts, their presence invites inspection while their function remains inscrutable.
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