around the world

Smart products, books, exhibitions, projects and ventures by Art Center alumni and faculty

Everything Under the Sun

Nicholas Alan Cope PHOT 07

Nicholas Alan Cope sees Los Angeles as a city of contrasts, with “dueling public narratives of glamour and cynicism” legible in its stark, modern architecture. In Whitewash, his new book of black-and-white photographs, he dramatizes that contrast by making elegant use of the extremes of light and shadow produced by the intensity of the Southern California sun. The Maryland native did not grow up in L.A., but living here since 2002 he has immersed himself in photographing the city’s schools, churches, homes, businesses and industrial buildings. Cope began work on the series in 2006 as an undergraduate in the Photography and Imaging program, developing a systematic approach and a set of visual parameters for a project that ultimately lasted seven years. In April, powerHouse Books published the fruits of his long labor, with a foreword by California-born, Paris-based fashion designer Rick Owens, and celebrated with an exhibition of large-format prints at Mondo Cane gallery in Tribeca. —SS

Nicholas Alan Cope Photography

Neil Shigley with block prints including, at left, Michael 67 (Pastor Shelby).

Home Is Where the Art Is

Neil Shigley ILLU 86

For the portrait artist, block printing is a particularly labor-intensive form. For San Diego-based Neil Shigley, it's a labor of love. Shigley, who documents his adopted city’s homeless in search of “the most honest portrayal that I can get,” is among 48 artists whose work is included in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, a juried exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) on view through Feb. 23, 2014. Shigley’s portrait chosen for the exhibition and published in the accompanying catalog features the smiling, deeply etched face of a man named Michael, or “Pastor Shelby” as he liked to be called. When they met, Pastor Shelby was using a branch to sweep the sidewalk where he lived. The two sat down together and talked, then Shigley snapped a few unposed photos. Shigley was impressed with the man’s confidence and enthusiasm, and with his commitment to helping others despite living on the streets for many years. After completing the 6-foot-tall plexiglass-block portrait back in his studio, Shigley returned to look for Pastor Shelby to show it to him, but never found him. If you can’t make it to D.C., online NPG visitors are invited to vote for their favorite pieces as part of the People’s Choice Award. —SS

WATCH: Video interview with Neil Shirley
National Portrait Gallery: Portrait of an Artist: Neil Shigley

Digital_Humanities, book co-authored by Anne Burdick.

Oh, the Digital Humanities!


What are the digital humanities? That’s the question posed in a new scholarly book co-authored by Anne Burdick, chair of the Graduate Media Design Department. And judging by the critical response—from movers and shakers in the field like Lev Manovich, Dan Cohen and Alan Liu—it’s a question many want answered. In Digital_Humanities (MIT Press), Burdick—along with metaLAB (at) Harvard’s Jeffrey Schnapp and UCLA’s Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld and Todd Presner—explores geospatial analysis, data mining, corpus linguistics and other non-traditional modes of humanistic inquiry. Writing for Leonardo Reviews, media artist and scholar Dene Grigar urges everyone to read Digital_Humanities, no matter their academic discipline, as it describes an area of research that has “the potential of transforming higher education.” And in the Italian edition of WIRED, Matteo “Mister Bit” Bittanti names the book one of his best of 2012 and recommends that every Italian university student add it to their reading list. A free Open Access edition of the book is available at the MIT Press website. —MW

The MIT Press: Digital_Humanities

Designing for a Demi-god


Art museums aren’t only about the art. That immediately becomes clear as film and television production designer Patti Podesta talks about her design of Stanley Kubrick at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Podesta, an integral part of Art Center’s Graduate Art faculty for more than 20 years, explains that her exhibition design emerged from “the important notion that one is not seeing the films, which are the art. However, across images and intimate readings, via fracturing and intensification, through memory and association, one can arrive at a kind of Kubrickian perception. This is the kind of activity museums contextualize so well and that I wanted to provide for my subject.” Featuring more than 600 objects, the Kubrick retrospective was originally organized by the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany, in collaboration with the director’s estate. For its U.S. premiere, co-presented by LACMA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences November 2012–June 2013, Podesta completely reframed the show. Winning New York Times raves for her “stunning installation” and its “striking visual tableaus,” she more than met the challenge. “Although Kubrick is revered worldwide,” she says, “here in L.A. he’s a demi-god.” —JG

Stanley Kubrick at LACMA

Welcome to the Machine

Steve Joyner ENVL 05 / Jason Pilasrki GART 97

“We privilege no particular creative practice, which allows us to explore the interests of our choosing without discrimination.” That’s the fearless statement on the website of MachineHistories, the two-man design team of Steven Joyner and Art Center instructor Jason Pilarski. Whether they’re creating undulating benches for the Los Angeles Design Group, CNC-milling a bedframe out of white Corian for Pae White’s GART 91 Widow of a King installation, or building for Chandelier Creative a chrome-pink 400-pound “electronic baroque” door inspired by Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, Joyner and Pilarski let their investigation of process drive their production. Those visible tool marks on the finished product? They aren’t accidental, they’re intended to point to the history behind its making. The two have been featured in several high-profile art and design magazines recently, including landing the cover of Metropolis. —MW

MachineHistories website

Sin Palace: Horizontal Section Cut by Michael Webb, published in The Car in 2035.

Cars and the Future of SoCal

Kati Rubinyi GART 02

Spearheaded by Graduate Art alumna and former faculty member Kati Rubinyi, The Car in 2035: Mobility Planning for the Near Future seeks to engage a broad readership in the aesthetically and intellectually complex relationship between cars and the physical environment. More than a handful of Art Center folks have contributed to the book, which features essays by Graduate Transportation Design Executive Director Geoff Wardle and Graduate Art Chair Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, among others, and illustrations by alumna Jiha Hwang GMDP 11. Published in March, the book and the issues it addresses became the driving force behind the creation of the nonprofit Civic Projects Foundation, founded and led by Rubinyi. Its mission—initiating projects for the public benefit that break down silos among professional disciplines—was inspired, in part, by Art Center. “My education and later experience at the College did nothing less than pry open my mind to new values and to other communities of practice, which was a much-needed antidote to my professional experience at that time,” says Rubinyi, whose background is in urban planning, architecture and art. Civic Projects welcomes collaboration and support from anyone who recognizes the need for more creativity in positively shaping the future of urban and suburban Southern California. —JG

Civic Projects website

Share a Story, Change the World

Michael Freund FILM 07 / John Savedra FILM 02

Struck by a single image of a community organizer using a handheld camera to document the plight of low-income workers in Los Angeles, alumni Michael Freund and John Savedra took it upon themselves to create a Sony Electronics spec film (a self-funded project they did on speculation, not for hire), to honor mobile media’s power to create positive change. Further inspired by Common Ground founder Rosanne Haggerty, the duo’s 60-second video—a dramatization—portrays a community organizer who captures a homeless woman’s story using Sony Electronics’ HD pocket camera, the Bloggie, as part of a successful effort to secure funding to convert old, dilapidated buildings into low-income housing. The theme of the video, titled Sony: Change the World, resonates with Freund. “My role as storyteller is to move audiences by telling authentic stories that contain an element of hope,” Freund says. “Not in-your-face happy endings, but subtle and powerful emotions. Not hyped-up drama, but real-life stories.” Freund and Savedra bonded over their Art Center connection and high standards for narrative visual storytelling. “Sony is the second of what I consider two very successful collaborations with Michael,” Savedra says. (The first was a spec film for shoe and apparel maker New Balance.) “Not only because we have a common appreciation for showing people on-screen who bond through life experiences, but because, in my eyes, we did it successfully.” —JG

WATCH: Sony: Change the World
Michael Andreas Freund website

Editor’s note: The spec piece for SONY Bloggie was originally spotted on Michael Freund’s Behance page. Art Center’s promotonal partnership with Behance, one of the premier networking sites for creatives, allows alumni, faculty and students to develop online portfolios.

Doug Aitken’s Mirror for the Seattle Art Museum. (Image courtesy of the Seattle Art Museum)

Mirror, Mirror

Doug Aitken ILLU 91

Planning a trip to the Emerald City? Be sure to stop by the Seattle Art Museum to see Mirror, a new permanent installation by artist Doug Aitken that wraps itself around the downtown museum’s northwestern façade. Unveiled in March, the monumental LED display features a horizontal band of projected images that dissolve into narrow columns of light running up and down the building. To create the images, Aitken shot a vast archive of video footage of the Pacific Northwest that can be choreographed—for Mirror’s public unveiling, the work was synchronized to music by minimalist composers Steve Reich and Terry Riley—and that can also respond to the installation’s changing urban environment, so that ephemeral factors like weather and traffic all help Mirror decide what to reflect. —MW

WATCH: Doug Aitken—Mirror Happening 2013

When the Bee Stings

Zhe Chen PHOT 11

Approaching her subjects from a deeply personal perspective, Zhe Chen explores the possibilities—and the limits—of photography. Going to Art Center “taught me to be fearless,” says the Beijing-born artist who now lives in Los Angeles, and it shows. Her long-term projects evolve from the notion and mechanism of self-injury and its psychological effect on individual narratives and collective identity. In 2011 Chen received the prestigious Inge Morath Award, the only award that carries the imprimatur of Magnum Photos, given annually to a woman photographer under 30 to assist in the completion of a documentary project. Bees, a provocative collection of her color photographs, was co-published by Beaugeste Gallery and made Feature Shoot photo blog’s “Top 15 Photo Books of 2012.” Chen feels a strong affinity for her subjects, many of whom she first connected with online—“a marginalized group of people in China faced with chaos, violence, alienation and irredeemable loss in life” who, she says, feel compelled to leave self-inflicted marks on their bodies. Her book takes its title from Virgil, who observed how bees, after stinging, “let the sting lie buried, and leave their lives/Behind them in the wound.” She credits her Art Center instructors with “letting me know that sometimes it’s okay to feel more than you can understand,” and asserts that her photographs hold secrets, “information awaiting exposure and recognition—like an index page pointing toward all the unanswered questions.” —SS

Zhe Chen website

Sky High Design

Phil Hettema ILLU 81

Phil Hettema is bringing simple and elegant design to Glitter Gulch with the creation of the world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller at Caesars, stretching 550 feet into the Las Vegas skyline. “I think this wheel is really, from a design point of view, going to be stunningly beautiful. The whole thing is based on pure circles and spheres,” says Hettema, founder of The Hettema Group, an award-winning immersive design firm based in Pasadena whose projects include The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (at Universal Orlando Resort) and the three-story observation deck atop 1 World Trade Center (opening in 2015 in Manhattan). Key to creating an effective immersive environment, says Hettema, is to control the entire experience and tell a great story to engage the visitor in unexpected ways. “The more you become engaged,” he says, “the more powerful the memories become, and the experience becomes stronger, and it stays with you longer.” With variability built into the design, the team promises the adventure will never be the same experience twice. Visitors journey through a media-saturated terminal lounge guided by a flight crew before boarding an enclosed glass cabin for the 30-minute ride revealing expansive city and desert views. The High Roller is set to open in early 2014. —TB

The LINQ website


Dot magazine is published by the Department of Marketing and Communications.
Art Center College of Design
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EDITOR: Sylvia Sukop

WRITERS: Teri Bond, Jered Gold, Mike Padilla, Sylvia Sukop, Jamie Wetherbe, Mike Winder


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WEB DESIGNER: Eliana Dominguez

WEB PRODUCTION: Chuck Spangler

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FRONT COVER: Westwood, July 2011, from Whitewash (powerHouse Books, 2013) by Nicholas Alan Cope.

BACK COVER: From Vedas (2011), a collaborative project between Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Edward Arnold.

PHOTOGRAPHY: © Art Center College of Design/Steven A. Heller; Alex Aristei; Brad Bartlett; Chad Blockley; John Dlugolecki; Chris Hatcher; Michelle Pullman; Chuck Spangler; Sylvia Sukop; Catherine R. Wygal and Deanna McClure.

© 2013 Art Center College of Design.
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