What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

August 18, 2022

Paul Tzanetopoulos
Silk Series
July 30 - September 10, 2022

Paul Tzanetopoulos

Throughout his long career, Paul Tzanetopoulos has created works that span many different media. He is probably best know for his columnar light sculpture that greets visitors flying in and out of LAX. In this monumental kinetic work, commissioned by Los Angeles World Airports in 2000, Tzanetopoulos choreographed a sequence of ever-changing colored light emitting diodes (LEDs) glowing within translucent pylons. Although the project at LAX is a permanent public work, Tzanetopoulos also makes small-scale pieces suitable for smaller spaces.

The works Tzanetopoulos exhibits at as-it.la focus on Scottish tartan patterns in varying colors and media. Four wall works from his recent Silk Series (2016-2019) fill the lower space. These mesmerizing paintings use technologies similar to the LAX project, yet rather than pierce the night sky, they subtly illuminate the gallery walls. Tzanetopoulos combines layers of silk, hand painted with specific tartan patterns and places them in wooden frames that are backlit by arrays of LEDs that have been programmed to move through a sequence of colors that shifts the hues of the painted silk. Each of the four "kinetic paintings" is titled after a "classic" pattern ranging from Ogilvie, to MacPherson, Fiddes and Jacobite. As the LEDs cycle through the spectrum, the appearance of the paintings oscillate. Moirés are formed when two or more pieces of silk are included and these "interferences" change as viewers look at the works from different vantage points. Tzanetopoulos knowingly has fabricated a series of complex, ever changing dynamic compositions.

While many of Tzanetopoulos' projects involve programming and digital technologies, he is also enamored with the analogue. In the upstairs office one finds Royal Stewart, a piece from his Typewriter Series (1990-1992) where Tzanetopoulos changed the color of the ribbon in a typewriter and typed specific letters and symbols over and over again on a single page to created a red, green, blue, white and black tartan. As Tzanetopoulos describes, "The familial name of the tartan relates directly to the manufacturer (brand) of the typewriter: there’s always a story within a story." Another work that engages with vintage technologies is Tumbling Microfiche Bell and Howell (Screen Series), (1989). Here, Tzanetopoulos presents a vintage microfiche reader that allows viewers to scroll through another plaid pattern while enlarging or decreasing its presence on the screen. This work is seen in relation to Ogilvie Old (Plaid Series), (1992) where Tzanetopoulos uses airbrush to enlarge and pixelate the tartan.

One might ask why tartans? While Tzanetopoulos is interested in the history of these patterns, the work seems to be more about the nuances and relationships between the digital and the analogue. The range of materials used to create the pieces enter into a dialogue between past and present. Tzanetopoulos explores both old and new technologies and celebrate the diverse ways aesthetics can be shaped by seemingly simple programs (like a changing light sequence). These pieces are filled with depth and movement. They are eye catching experiments in pattern and form.