Lay with Machines
Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ
by K.Anthony Lawler
A wonderful expanse of creative vision and technological empowerment – a reflection of the rise of our digital age – is currently on display at Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, NJ. The artist, Pat Lay, explores in her work a variety of materials, construction methods and thought processes. Aljira’s gallery exhibit is currently displaying work by Lay from the advent of her career in the late 1960’s through and up to the present moment.
Using the patterned line work found in computer circuitry, Lay’s 2 dimensional pieces evoke a mysterious, spiritual and cosmological attachment to technology. The viewer is staggered in their position as each new piece comes into view through the details and meticulous weaving of line and pattern. Several of the pieces are balanced along an axis of symmetry, with one or two elements suspended in a dimension above. Whether digital figures or a view of the cosmos, the juxtaposition of these two entities deliver the work in an interesting and compelling way.
The work jars the schemas of memory by presenting us with familiar icons, such as that of the tapestry, only to realize the details are not of hand stitching, love and thread but instead of wire, electricity and metal. Our human attachment to each piece is thrown into an artificial realm, ushering us toward a new visage of the future.
Each piece is a hybridization of that which expresses our humanity and that which represents the children of our civilization, the machines.
Lay’s work alienates us, yet draws us in. We are familiar with the forms and elements, yet the non-humanism squirms under our skin. Her android creations are a vision of Transhumanism; they are the product and inevitable conclusion of our tech-society. The emergence of Lay’s machines rises from us, the organics, but settles into an unclear context of whether these geometrics they will express the current values of humanity, or reject them.
The 3 dimensional figures on display balance an interesting harmony between Lay’s early and latter work. This retrospective layout, provides the viewer with a narrative of forms, ones which rise from minimalism and drift into full complexity. Lay’s practice grew during the time of minimalism and the rejection of clay and ceramics as a fine art material. Lay’s ceramic forms function as quiet, yet expressive totems of design and empowerment. The balance between geometric shapes and organic material present themselves with mastery over their forms and the expression of the culture they represent.
Aljira’s guest curator Lilly Wei stated, “From the beginning, it seems, Pat Lay has been fascinated by the unfamiliar, by cultures other than her own, especially from distant regions of the world. She was never dismissive of art that was free from European and American formulations, but was intrigued, instead, by its rich, often curious imagery and venerable histories, by its differences.” I would further add that the narrative in Lay’s work, regardless of medium or context, continues to express her interests in experimentation and the evolution of humankind through form and material.
Lay is a graduate of Pratt Institute and Rochester Institute of Technology. She is the founder of the Master of Fine Arts program at Montclair State University, through which her influence and support has bolstered the quality of art in New Jersey nearly as far into the future as her own post-human creations.
The series Myth, Memory and Android Dreams by Pat Lay will be on display at Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art until March 19, 2016. Aljira is located at 591 Broad St, Newark, NJ 07102. For further information on Pay Lay, visit her website at – you guessed it – www.patlay.com or visit Alijra gallery at www.aljira.org
(all images and content created & provided by K.Anthony Lawler)