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Editorial: Reviews
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Johannes Girardoni
PDX Gallery, Portland, Oregon
Review by Richard Speer


Johannes Girardoni, “Resonant - Blue Violet” (detail), 2017, resin, pigment and virtual SpectroSonic refrequencer, 20 x 20 x 3 /12”

Continuing through February 25, 2017

In a suite of candy-colored minimalist sculptures titled “Resonance,” Los Angeles-based artist Johannes Girardoni uses technology to critique technology. Immaculately executed and unabashedly chromatic, the sculptures are devastatingly gorgeous — and devastating in their indictment of tech-crazed consumerism. The exhibition’s motif is a pixelated circle. When you first see one of them in reproduction, you’re liable to think the picture is a low-res image. That’s part of the point. There are thirteen of these inscrutable forms in all, wall-mounted, each cast in resin, and spanning the ROYGBIV rainbow of colors. They’re between 2.5 and 3.5 inches thick in graduated strata, which makes their centers appear more deeply saturated than their edges. On their own, without any conceptual context, they’re an agreeably splashy series in the mode of bold geometric minimalism. Titled after their colors (“Resonant-Green,” “Resonant-Violet,” and so on), the pieces across as very California Light and Space, channeled through an Atari 800-era graphic sensibility. They’re futuristic and nostalgic at the same time.

Walking among the sculptures, at the precise moment you think you’ve gotten a sufficient sugar high of pure opticality, a gallery assistant comes along and hands you an iPhone hooked up to a set of headphones. As prompted, you slide them over your ears, hold up the screen — which displays the pixelated outline of the sculptures — and walk toward one of the pieces until its contours line up with the outline. The moment that happens, the ambient noise in the headphones suddenly morphs into a celestial-sounding choral outburst — as if a choir of seraphim in fully gilded effulgence had magically materialized in the middle of this minimalist sanctum.

The assistant points you onward toward the adjacent sculpture, and hark!, it produces an entirely different soundscape. And so you crisscross the room, effectively composing your own score as you perambulate. It feels downright epiphanic every time you effect a new tone. You start coming up with favorites; the cobalt blue might strike you as especially simpatico with … with what, exactly? With a vibration that seems to be on your wavelength.

And now Girardoni’s got you. What had been a perfectly sumptuous visual experience has just been improved upon by a technological interface, and instantly the experience you’d had with the sculptures beforehand — with only your senses — seems by comparison bereft. The technological mediator has become necessary to complete the artwork. “These damned boxes have become an augmentation to our senses,” Girardoni told me, pointing at his iPhone during a studio visit earlier this week in Culver City. “We’ve outsourced certain cognitive functions to it.” Haven’t we, though? Indeed, how could we navigate our cities without GPS? How would we find a tapas restaurant within a one-mile radius without our apps? And how could we have a fun evening out with friends if we couldn’t take scads of selfies with which to document the occasion?

“Resonance” is a devilish conundrum of a show. It seduces you with its bold colors and simiplified forms, then seduces you further by feeding you a fix of digitally-aided revelation. The more you enjoy the experience, the more implicated you are in Girardon’s double-coded ambush. The longer you saunter from piece to piece, tone to tone, the more whorishly complicit you become in our cultural descent into spectacle and technology-addiction. This is the genius of the show: It draws you like a moth to the proverbial flame, then singes you with a glimpse of your own irredeemable superficiality.

PDX Contemporary Art

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