Microscope is very pleased to present Break The Sky, the first solo exhibition at the gallery by Jeanne Liotta, whose works we have previously shown in “Triple Blind” (2013), “Slide Slide Slide” (2014), and “Dreamlands: Expanded” (2016-17), a series of expanded cinema events presented in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the exhibition “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema & Art 1905-2016”.
A recurring theme of Liotta’s practice – which spans the mediums of moving image, photography, collage, installation, painting, drawing and performance – is a personal and poetic interest in the intersection of art and science and the tools and technology thereof.
The works in Break the Sky contain elements both of continuity and rupture with her multi-award winning film Observando El Cielo (2007), in which the artist filmed the sky over a period of seven years from remote sites, and draw inspiration from the writings and Copernican diagrams by 16th century Italian cosmologist and philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) as well as current augmented reality “stargazing” smartphone apps for the identification of celestial objects. Although created 500 years apart, Liotta asserts that in essence both approaches serve to allow us to visualize our location in space and consider our existence within the wider universe.
“In This Immense Space Hidden Things Appear Before Us” (2018) is an augmented reality video installation that like Yoko Ono’s 1966 “Sky TV” – to which the work pays homage – brings a live feed of the sky outside into the gallery space. Liotta’s appropriation and use of new technologies allow for her piece, which is projected onto the walls of the gallery, to extend beyond the limits of the visible sky. Video imagery shot in real time by smartphones installed onto the building’s roof are superimposed with computer generated renditions of the actual planets, stars, constellations and other celestial bodies as well as space stations, “junk”, and other known objects in Earth’s orbit.
The live video feeds on view during the gallery hours – from early afternoon daylight to evening darkness – facilitate the experience of our movement on Earth, especially as shown in relation to other planets and star systems: our location in New York City rotating at approximately 750 mph on a planet orbiting the sun at 67,000 mph in a solar system circling the galaxy at 483,000 mph, etc.
Also on view are selections from two related watercolor and ink on paper series by the artist. The “Bruno Studies” watercolors are based on the silhouette of the statue of Giordano Bruno that stands in Rome’s Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, where in 1600 he was burned at the stake for refusing to revoke what were considered heretical views such as insisting that our sun is just one of many and the universe is infinite, and often incorporate text of his writings in “De l’Infinito, Universo e Mondi” (1584).
The “Nightly Studies” – a watercolor, gansai and sumi ink on paper series – find Liotta making her own chartings of the observable sky at night from various locations around the globe during her research. The artist’s detailed, multi-layered use of shades of blue along with her minimal and gestural application of black ink on the page draw visual connections between the human and the cosmic scales: splatters of ink form the Milky Way, a tiny dot of paint a distant galaxy.