Felipe Pantone On His First Solo U.S. Show ‘W3-Dimensional’
"I hear often that my art is futuristic. I think my work belongs to the present."
Images courtesy of Mirus Gallery
Well ahead of the rest of us, artist Felipe Pantone has gotten to the future of now. He is proudly born of the Internet—be it evident in the ultramodern evolution of his decade’s worth of graffiti, or his creative kinesis in response to technology, abstraction, and op art. At times, it’s hard to decipher whether Pantone’s work is created by man or machine, but in truth, it is an invention of both. Visually, it is as if he climbs into the pocket of interruption generated by technical glitch and from it, pulls a prism of color, hyperactivity, and the zigzag of geometry.
Next up for the Spain-based artist is stretching beyond the boundaries of canvas and hitting walls, and experimenting with 3-dimensional works on wood. W3-DIMENSIONAL, Pantone’s first U.S. solo exhibition, finds shape and eye-popping color in large format installation and sculptures. Pantone culled inspiration for the new work from an intriguing and largely forgotten source: Teilhard de Chardin’s 1950s theories on the notion of a “Noosphere.” The controversial idea, largely dismissed until the advent of cyberspace, suggests the existence of a thinking sphere, “an enveloping sphere of thought…enclosing the Earth.”
We hit up Pantone in recents days to chat more about the new show and his understanding of technology as a friend to art and a conduit for connection.
Mass Appeal: Do you revel in the blurring of expectations between what is seemingly “man-made” and what is a digital creation?
Felipe Pantone: Yes, definitely. Whatever that makes you doubt, makes you think. I find that fascinating as an spectator, coming from any discipline.
It speaks to this exact moment in time, no?
I hear often that my art is futuristic. Well, I think my work belongs to the present. I try to transmit my point of view of the world around me: the traveling, the flow of cultures and information.
Can you delve into your step-by-step process behind the creation of these new pieces?
For the first time, I explored some possibilities that wood can offer in pieces that are meant to be hung on walls. I basically turned my studio into a carpenter’s shop, and I started playing with wood—being aware of my limitations, of course.
Normally, I start designing things on the computer. This time, when the idea was clear, I cut the wood, glued it, filled the joins, sanded it, primed it, then painted and varnished it.
How did you learn of this idea of the “Noosphere,” the Earth’s thinking layer, and how has it inspired and informed this body of work?
I try to speak about information that moves extra fast and interconnects. The “Noosphere” is a concept invented almost a century ago, and now it seems to be more evident. Some authors now call it the cybersphere. Thanks to the Internet, ideas travel faster than ever.
Do you think the presence of the “artist’s hand” is even necessary to pieces within this ultramodern context?
Not at all. I paint because I can’t afford to have other people painting for me, but when I buy art, I definitely don’t care if the artist has put their hand in the work. In my case, I still think that doing it myself is the best option. For example, when it comes to a painting, it gets really expensive to have four fluorescent colors printed in certain sizes. Same thing with the murals. Painting them myself is still cheaper than printing, and probably faster too. But, I have no qualms about changing my process in the future if I think printing or hiring is a better option. I think musicians really embrace the fact that they don’t have to play every instrument, but just direct their compositions from their computers. Et voilà. Sweet electronic music got invented.
You are a proud son of the Internet?
Absolutely. I’m really happy to be able to witness one of the most important things that happened in the history of information after the invention of writing and printing. Humanity is going further in a shorter time. 10 years ago we had Walkmans, and now, we have phones connected to the entire knowledge of humanity. It’s pretty awesome.
You’re decidedly optimistic about humanity’s relationship with technology then? It’s nothing to be afraid of? Technology as a conduit for connection rather than a hinderance or interruption in connection?
Yes. I’m really optimistic. A lot of people think about it being an obstacle in human relationships. I think you can see it in the smaller things. Maybe 50 years ago, your interlocutor might be talking with you while browsing a magazine. 20 years ago, they might be speaking while looking sideways at the television. Nowadays, we don’t even waste our time. We just speak directly on the phone with the person that interest us the most, no matter where they are.
Now, seriously, I think flow of information is really beneficial. When printing got invented, it achieved to put to an end the darkest times in human history: the Middle Ages. Obviously, at the beginning, they just printed mostly useless information in my opinion, such as sacred books, but you know!
Are you as optimistic for the future of handwriting? Like literally writing things out by hand, penmanship that we used to learn in school?
Well, I still write my name on things, but apart from that, honestly, I’m forgetting how to write by hand. My hand gets tired after a while. I wonder how kids are doing. Anyhow, I don’t think handwriting is too important anyway. Even the purists, let’s face it, you all prefer typing and scanning to handwriting!
The opening reception for W3-DIMENSIONAL is from 7–10 p.m. this Saturday, January 30 at Mirus Gallery (540 Howard Street, Third Floor, San Francisco). The exhibition will continue through February 20, 2016.