Digital sculpture now on display at Penn State

“Constrained Surface,” an audiovisual installation by artist Ryoichi Kurokawa is on display through Jan. 20 at the HUB Gallery.
“Constrained Surface,” an audiovisual installation by artist Ryoichi Kurokawa is on display through Jan. 20 at the HUB Gallery. Photo provided

Ryoichi Kurokowa’s “constrained surface,” currently on display in Penn State’s HUB-Robeson Galleries, wields the juxtaposition between sight and sound to confound viewers.

Kurokowa is world renowned for his artistic explorations of time and sound. Based in Berlin, his work has been shown in the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton in Paris, the Galleria Civica di Modena and many others.

The exhibit consists of two rectangular panels hanging catty-corner to one another upon a pitch-black backdrop. These panels display various permutations of color in conjunction with a hidden speaker playing a jarring bass synth. As a result, “constrained surface” feels less an exercise in modern electronic art and more a faithful product of it.

Lindsey Landfried, Senior Gallery Manager and Curator, discovered “constrained surface” at the Wood Street Galleries in Pittsburgh, while scoping out talent for the HUB-Robeson Galleries.

“When you are in that space you hear it, feel it and see it. That experiential part of it is an invitation for folks who may never have connected with a painting or sculpture,” Landfried said.

At roughly eight minutes, this dance between the senses travels to various “environments” in search of familiarity for the viewer.

This is perhaps best realized in the opening minutes, where an abstract portrayal of a warm sunset shifts violently to flashes of raucous blue and black light. During this transformation, the booming drawl of the synth follows the light; providing abrupt cracks reminiscent of a thunderstorm.

Other aspects of the installation seem to reference places beyond our atmosphere. After a section containing intermittent flashes of green light, a calm white beam pierces both screens.

It takes a couple of moments to set in, but soon the beam intensifies in color and scope to the tune of a burgeoning, monotone synth. Kurokowa may have intended for this section to represent the sun, though any galactic presence feels fitting.

Kurokawa formed this exhibit as a commentary on synesthesia. The phenomena, often debated within the medical community, arises when the brain takes one sensory input (i.e. sound, touch, sight) and manifests it within other facets of sensory output.

The most common example of this comes from musicians who claim to ‘see’ colors while listening to music. In faithfully depicting this, Kurokowa made sure to form an installation devoid of other distractions.

The room feels airless, and sprawling black curtains deny the viewer access to a busy environment just a few feet away.

“I think the artist had the intention of making this an illustration of that phenomena in some way,” Lindfried said. “What happens here, is that it becomes hard to parse through what is being heard and felt. I think sensory confusion can definitely occur.”

With this Kurokowa exhibit, curators of the HUB-Robeson Galleries have demonstrated their passion for providing quality art installations for Penn State students who may not usually get the chance.

“A lot of times folks ask me, ‘if I don’t know about art or haven’t had an experience of art. I’m not sure what it does.’ This piece I think undeniably does something,” Landfried said. “We hope that every Penn State student will have an experience with art during their time here.”

The “constrained surface” installation will be free and open to the public until Jan. 20. A public reception will be held from 4-6 p.m. Jan. 17.

If you go

What: “Constrained Surface” installation

When: through Jan. 20; public reception 4-6 p.m. Jan. 17

Where: HUB Gallery, University Park

Info: studentaffairs.psu.edu/hub/art-galleries