ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The theoretical exploration of the space-time continuum is an inspiration to Harvard University laboratory engineer and multimedia photographer John Chervinsky.
His solo show at the Richard Levy Gallery, titled “Frames of Reference” from his “Studio Physics” series, blends still life, painting, drawing and photography in homage to the history of art and science.
While trying to describe Chervinsky’s complicated creative process to a friend, I realized that any detailed explanation would be a hard slog for readers on a Sunday morning.
Suffice it to say that Chervinsky integrates photography, painting and drawing to produce very clever images that question the nature of time and space while deconstructing Renaissance perspective. See what I mean?
While creating “Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2” (1912), Marcel Duchamp wrestled with the concept of somehow truly integrating the fourth dimension (time) into his art. His abstracted “nude” was inspired by time-lapse photography.
Duchamp worked on his “Large Glass” sculpture from 1915 to 1923, during which time he photographed the accumulating dust on its surface. His last work, “Etant donnes,” took 20 years to complete (1946-1966). When you view one of these three works you are experiencing time compression.
Chervinsky takes a different approach to time capture in “Clock, Outlet and Painting on Wall, 2011,” in which the electric clock reveals two times.
The clock was originally photographed with a frame covering a section of the wall and clock face. That section was turned into a painting that was then hung where the empty frame had been. The whole was rephotographed, creating a single clock with four hands.
Salvador Dali used stop-action photography to capture spilled buckets of water, flying cats and leaping artists in midair.
In “Oranges, Box and Painting on Door, 2011” and “Apples, Painting on Door, 2011,” Chervinsky arrests flying fruit in midair.
In describing his “Studio Physics” aesthetic, Chervinsky wrote, “I am fascinated by the concept of time. I can measure it, account for it in an experiment in the lab, and live my life in it, but I still don’t know what it is, exactly. … This conceptual work in progress will investigate the physical phenomena of still and moving objects in space over time.”
My favorite works are Chervinsky’s black-and-white, still-life pieces that juxtapose two-dimensional white chalk drawings with three-dimensional objects.
In “Through the Looking Glass (from An Experiment in Perspective) 2008,” Chervinsky uses a painting to act as a false mirror to warp space between two and three dimensions. In the composition are three cone shapes, only one of which exists in what we call the real world. Of course, since the entire piece is a print of a photograph, none of it is “real”.
Chervinsky’s “Entropy, 2003” alludes to the metaphorically eminent collapse of the universe, while his “Continuum 1, 2004” shows spheres warping a drawn grid much like great planetary masses warp gravitational fields.
His works share a comfortable kinship with Man Ray’s photography and Rene Magritte’s surrealist paintings.
Chervinsky hovers between clever and brilliant throughout the show with works that hint at a range of theoretical physics concerns, from gravitational light-bending lenses and string theory to multiverses and back again to Euclidian geometry.
Duchamp tried to transcend optical art. Chervinsky reveals in fooling the eye and expanding the mind. It’s a beautiful exhibition – just ask Alice.