The Eye of the Artist: The Work of Devorah Sperber
Interested in the links between art, science, and technology, Devorah Sperber deconstructs familiar images to address the way we think we see versus the way the brain processes visual information. “As a visual artist,” she says, “I cannot think of a topic more stimulating and yet so basic than the act of seeing—how the human brain makes sense of the visual world.”
Sperber’s renderings of widely recognized images in the history of Western art, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Mona Lisa, begin with computer-generated pointillist diagrams or maps. Substituting colored spools of thread or crystals for the pixels or color points of the diagrams, Sperber re-creates the masterpieces as life-sized, three-dimensional installations.
The artist hangs the works made with spools of thread upside down—a reference to the fact that the lens of the eye projects an inverted image of the world on the retina. From a few feet away, the compositions appear abstract. However, when viewed through an optical device—which, like the lens of the eye, not only inverts but also focuses the image—they appear as sharp, faithful, right-side-up reproductions of the famous paintings.
In the crystal works, Sperber directly engages the “centered-eye” theory, which argues that throughout the history of Western portraiture one eye of the sitter is often located at or near the vertical center of the composition. Each crystal work consists of two flanking symmetrical images created by dividing a portrait along the vertical axis and mirroring each side. Sperber’s labor-intensive process proves the theory of eye-centeredness by creating in effect two new “portraits” in which an eye is located quite obviously exactly at or near the vertical center. To see the original portrait emerge, viewers are encouraged to step back and, using a hand or a piece of paper, block out the two middle portions of the overall work.
Marilyn S. Kushner
May 7, 2007
Artist Devorah Sperber will exhibit five of her thread-spool installations and two recent works composed of colored crystals in an exhibition that opens at the Brooklyn Museum January 26, 2007. Included in the presentation, on view through June 17, will be a work comprising 20,000 spools of colored thread arranged in a seemingly abstract pattern, which when viewed through an optical device becomes recognizable as Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
Fascinated by the connections between art, science, and technology, Sperber deconstructs familiar images to address the way the brain processes visual information versus the way we think we see. She begins her making computer-generated pixilated diagrams to which she then substitutes colored spools of thread for the pixels.
The artist hangs the thread-spool works upside down, a reference to the way the human eye inverts images onto the retina. From a few feet away, the compositions appear to be nonrepresentational fields of color. Once seen through a viewing sphere that functions like the lens of the eye, the work becomes a clear reproduction of the famous painting. Included in this exhibition are full-scale re-creations of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as well as Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein and Van Eyck’s Man in a Red Turban.
In her two crystal works and circular thread-spool works, Sperber addresses the theory that throughout the history of Western portraiture, one eye of the sitter is often located very close to the vertical center of the composition. When working with crystals, Sperber divides the original portrait along the central vertical axis and then mirrors each portion to create two related portraits that are exhibited side-by-side. To see the original portrait emerge, viewers are encouraged to step back and use a piece of paper to block out the two middle sections.
Eye of the Artist: The Work of Devorah Sperber is co-curated by Marilyn Kushner and Nicole Caruth.