On My Legato Series

A statement concerning the 2014 series of digital works called Legato
—April 28, 2014

Legato 7 (c-print, 2014), view the full series

Subverting the properties of the 19th-century portraits beneath (and diminishing them to rudimentary impressions), I've introduced a new predominant information source with an array of repeating geometric shapes and complimentary/contrasting color cues. This data, and the conversation between it and the rest of the composition, theoretically provides a zone of optical "comfort" in which the viewer may take refuge from the uncertainty of the disavowed portraits beneath. It’s through this manufacture of raw optical balance and tonal harmonies that the confusion of the vanishing portrait is undermined. The potential result is a sensation of "completeness" regarding these compositions, despite the near-total loss of visual, contextual, and representational clarity.

In the Legato works, the area just above the center of the square picture plane provides a sweet spot. We instinctively expect to find information communicated there—this is where the subject of the portrait’s eyes ostensibly reside, ordinarily providing admittance into the "aura" of the artwork as well as the human visage. With the features of the portrait diminished and the eyes subdued, another informational metric is presented. Through the inclusion of a geometric grid of repeating shapes, adorned with spectrums of color both contrasting and analogous, a confusing conceptual-aesthetic indulgence is manufactured from three primary spheres of rationality: 1) aesthetic balance and harmony; 2) formal and conceptual ambiguity; and 3) our biological attraction to portraiture/bodies.

Considering this experiment beyond the realm of aesthetic influence alone, one might determine that the art historical portrait, even under ideal viewing conditions, is predominantly a projection of ourselves—insofar as we "fill in gaps" of context and dismiss the total absence of literal biology with our own preconceptions and desires regarding human bodies (as we do when we read a book in which the character's "portrait" is only ever impressed upon us, yet we construct vivid mental representations regardless). The awareness of our own projections onto human representations takes on added meaning, however, if we consider how likely it is that such projections permeate everywhere in our lives, including how we receive and judge other biological bodies on a habitual basis with minimum amounts of information. Given how little we know for sure about each other, it would appear that data manufacturing, in order to establish "comfort" or "derision," is one of our greatest skill sets.

—Chad Wys