Paul Slocum

Dunn and Brown Contemporary

Garland Fielder

Paul Slocum, Four Seasons of Work Desktops, 2007; Giclée prints on canvas; 46 x 16 inches each; edition of 5

Pi House Generator, 2008; installation view, Dunn and Brown Contemporary, Dallas

A punk aesthetic is alive and well in new media practice, as evidenced by Paul Slocum’s recent exhibition More House at Dunn and Brown Contemporary. Slocum’s obsessive output projects the best of a savvy DIY programmer, while simultaneously attaining a slightly caustic tone that speaks insightfully about our cultural milieu. The artist holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and this training defines his work. But he also brings a heavy dose of adolescent verve and humor to the table, presenting pieces that reveal technical dexterity, yet are engaging enough to seduce even the staunchest of luddites.

In Pi House Generator, Slocum presents a vintage hi-fi receiver connected to a laptop that generates, as the title suggests, house-music beats originating from an algorithm that constantly computes π. The beat goes on, and on and on, confusing mystical computations with a musical genre that is at once alluring and hollow. This commingling of the mathematically sublime and the decadent could very well describe Slocum’s output in general. A tempting pulse pervades his tech-driven meanderings, which confidently—and constantly—pushes the work forward.

Hats, a striking projection, reflects the personal space Slocum inhabits most frequently. The work consists of a montage of desktop fragments, appearing and reappearing around two prominent images—the first, a video of the artist at work on his computer, the second an unidentified YouTube poster going on and on about his less than secure libido. Frames of various Web browsers pop in and out, creating a sort of psychotic omnipresence. All the while, the artist’s visage is calming although slightly buffoonish. The YouTube window is evidently the sort of background chatter Slocum likes to leave on while he works. The cross-referencing of white noise and personal reflection establishes the artist’s interest in the Web as ground for mining cultural fodder.

Slocum’s Web aesthetic takes over in the Four Seasons of Work Desktops. This edition of Giclée prints on canvas suffers, however, from the static nature of its presentation. In all fairness, this may simply be due to the kinetic momentum of the rest of the exhibition. While these “paintings” are compositionally similar to the other works, they seem more self-conscious. They are fragmented compositions made from images of Slocum’s workspace—that is to say, his desktop.

The series is reminiscent of Synthetic Cubism in that the subject matter is very much about the day-to-day accumulation of materials; only here, the format is digitized and then made static. This may or may not be an advantage. It does slow down the overall methodology enough to allow the viewer to really pick apart Slocum’s visual language, but the payoff for this is questionable. Regardless, Slocum is to be lauded for his meshing of genres in More House, both sensorially and metaphorically. His work retains a fresh impulse that steers clear of pedagogical tendencies. Slocum is so comfortable in the digital world that his ease of thought and sharp wit come across as unbridled. The result is invigorating.

Garland Fielder is an artist and writer living in Houston.

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