Authorship. Originality. These are some, but of course not nearly all, of the things that usually come to mind when considering art -- the conceit of the artist and that his or her unique vision gives meaning and value to the work. Now, get ready to turn all that on its head.
In the exhibition "CTRL + P" at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, words like open source and creative commons are more pressing than authorship and originality. The show, curated by Anna Walker, brings together artists who make work based on ideas and designs that are free for the taking, as long as you have the right technology.
In this case, it's cutting-edge concepts such as computer-aided design programs and 3D printers, which, instead of adding ink to paper, build objects line by line out of metal or plastic. Using this 21st-century technology and designs from open-source websites, the artists here have been able to make sculptural and functional objects, often in bulk.
There are silver and gold-plated stainless steel rings made by Erin Gardner and Margaret Drinkwater of The Opulent Project, based on existing ring designs from a Google 3D warehouse and made using a 3D printer. There are dozens of porcelain objects piled behind a glass case -- some made by hands, others with the help of a CAD software program and then printed by 3D printing marketplace Shapeways -- from ceramic artists Bryan Czibesz and Shawn Spangler. There's even a 3D printer on loan from Houston hackerspace TX/RX Labs for demonstration, spitting out orange teapots.
The results are rather crude and unremarkable -- there are a lot of plain ceramic pieces in odd shapes -- if not for their origins. This is a forward-looking show that's more about the idea than the object and treading new ground in what's possible. For all it says about creation, one thing is of note -- the works are still carefully attributed. It just goes to show that authorship --and giving attribution to the person behind the piece -- still holds value.
"CTRL + P" at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main Street, runs now through September 8. For more information, call 713-529-4848 or visit www.crafthouston.org.