Saturday, June 24, 2006

Is it by hand or by computer? It’s hard to tell.

by Kenneth Baker

SF-Chronicle-2006.06Alex Zecca’s abstract drawings — grids of colored lines precisely ruled on paper — look machine-made at first. Their idiosyncrasies, faint intimations of hand crafting, come forward very slowly, not through imperfections but through a tastefulness that, though straitjacketed in rigid parameters, we associate only with someone’s decision-making.

The drawings hang in the new Bryant Street quarters of Gallery 16 and Urban Digital Color.

Zecca appears to challenge us to articulate what, if anything, confirms for us the handmade nature of his drawings. I find that the work emanates a feeling of care taken with its details that I do not believe graphic design software could generate.

But this is a matter of belief.

In the tricky realm of contemporary culture, an artist just might put it about that he makes by hand something computer generated, later to embarrass credulous viewers like me with the truth. Zecca surely knows that his work will arouse such suspicions. So much the better if work that appears so void of reference nevertheless can heighten awareness of the context it enters.

Perhaps the dizzyingly unsystematic sequence of colors that buzzes vertically across “October 7, 2005” could have been randomly generated. But anyone studying it carefully will suspect Zecca of taking pleasure in deciding the unfolding of slivered colors, one by one.

Bear down also on the maroon horizontal bands, each composed of numerous lines, and you suspect that only the artist’s attention to detail made possible the chromatic modulations produced by the bright verticals showing through the dark striations.

Zecca’s drawings join a stream of rigorous abstract art that characteristically eliminates all reference. But look long enough at his work and you begin to feel that it dissects or plots the very grain of one’s optical awareness.