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View of the installation, Brain + Love + in the Ilon Art Gallery

Author VITTORIA BENZINE May 2022

Art and science make the radical couple so beloved – and published – in contemporary art that we forget that a relationship requires equal giving and receiving. STEAM projects have dominated the landscape lately, especially with the advent of so many new technologies, but Chicago-based artist, director and collector Ellen Sandor has never cared about popular words. She is in love with the process, finding the next big thing before it happens.

An ardent advocate of experimental art during his 40-year career, Sandor and her team in (art)n they spearheaded new technology-driven opportunities, laying the groundwork for significant inventions such as PHSColograms — which Sandor compares to daguerreotypes of virtual reality.

Developed by Sandor and her team in the early ’80s, PHSColograms are named after their makeup – photography, holography, sculpture and computer graphics all digitally intertwine numerous views to portray a virtual scene, beautiful and multidimensional. Creating a PHSClogram is necessarily a joint venture. “It’s about the artist as a director and producer,” Sandor told me. “On the other hand, we were pioneers.”

“Give me a point from the outside,” she continued. “I sincerely believe that all innovation happens to people who think differently, outside the box, from the technological revolution to scientists.”

View of the installation, Brain + Love + in the Ilon Art Gallery

On April 28, “Brain + Love +” opened Ilon Art Gallery, an innovative new space for outsider art in Harlem. (art)nThe latest exhibition there presents PHSCologram sculptures in various shapes and dimensions, a VR experience and pieces inspired by legends such as Victor Vasarely and Man Ray. Dates of artwork range from 2001 to 2020, and credit can go to the best of ten subjects – consistent collaborators like Diana Torres and Azadeh Gholizadeh, and institutions like Fermilab and The Stanley Center at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard – proof of the teamwork needed. for art and science to truly unite.

Sandor began as a school teacher at NYC. She and her husband graduated from city schools and were married at 21. “I had already taught for two years, went to Minnesota and taught there for about three years, and taught for a few years in Berkeley from 1966 to 1968,” Sandor recalled. . After having children, their family moved to Chicago, where Sandor earned an MFA in 1975 in sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her earliest works experimented with neon light. When Sandor completed the order for the first ever large 3D postcard, the medium began to usurp more of her artistic energy, bringing her into closer contact with collaborators in science. “It just made sense,” she remarked. “The people we could work with were scientists. They were interested in this new technology. ”

“The personal story developed after that,” she said. Watching close friends suffer from cancer, the AIDS epidemic and other crises has created an understanding of the critical pathos that makes science relevant to everyday life. “Then one of my grandchildren developed nonverbal autism,” she continued, which limits Cal’s ability to communicate and control her body. “He became my muse.”

“There was a new way of learning to communicate where you have a board that has letters,” Sandor said. It was next recorded on film: “Cal said,‘ Grandma, study CRISPR ’and he says it. I almost fainted. ” The rest became history — Sandor got in touch with now-Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist and (art)n a supporter who pioneered CRISPR’s gene editing technology.

View of the installation, Brain + Love + in the Ilon Art Gallery

The title of the show is PHSCologram, created in 2010 by 13 teammates, which shows the brain map of Raun Kaufman, “one of the first people to fully recover from autism,” according to the catalog that accompanies the exhibition. Loni Efron, director of the Ilon Art Gallery, worked as an archivist for Keith Richards and Annie Leibovitz. Efron is also Kaufman’s first cousin, which she and Sandor realized after they started working together.

“Sandor used several scans [Kaufman’s] a brain filmed while performing certain activities, and each shoots near trails filmed as a light on film, ”Jessica Krinke wrote for Medill Reports: Chicago. “The result is a three-dimensional, transparent brain filled with colorful clusters as if everything is active at once. The Kaufman model of the brain should serve not only as a beautiful artistic representation of the work at the center, but also as a valuable study of the brain. ”

Autism is not a monolithic term – the word means a whole range of conditions. For many individuals from the spectrum, Sandor explained, it is very likely that they will live a full and happy life. Cal, however, faces limitations that have helped Sandor as a grandmother, artist and person help scientists look for new solutions. “It’s not about everyone,” she said. “This is personal.”

View of the installation, Brain + Love + in the Ilon Art Gallery

VR headphones invite viewers to enter their own inner worlds, simulating two works from (artistic)nThe “Neuronal Forest” series that includes photos of Eliot Porter from the esteemed Sandor Family Collection. In the forest of synapses and microglia – the primary immune cells of our central nervous system responsible for pruning synapses – the viewer’s hands regulate the environment. Too much pruning causes the scene to darken, causing conditions like Alzheimer’s. Insufficient causes a rage of light conditions on the spectrum.

A series of smaller PHSColograms looks like NFT, but are actually some of the earliest works on the show, from Sandor’s collaboration with the late, great outsider artist Mr. Imagination and Chicago painters Imagist Ed Paschke and Karl Wirsum, who are developing new characters from scratch. Eventually, all the works in this show will be published on the blockchain in fiat currency on NFT store ilon Art Gallery.

Many projects around art and science force the latter to serve the former. Technological progress is judged in terms of what it can do for the art world, not the other way around. Through (art)n, Sandor is also influencing science, working with researchers to catalyze new ways of thinking. The true marriage of art and science opens up research so that their child, society, can grow. Right now, art is intimidated by science, a smart friend who speaks jargon and makes people feel small. Science, however, is intimidated by art for the same reason – its jargon is just artistic speech. When both sides stop trying to prove themselves, then they can work together.

“Has the art world caught up with Ellen Sandor?” the catalog asks. Sandor refused to catch up. She thought that by this point in history we would all be living in a virtual world, not through 2D screens or Oculus. “All this happened to you,” she said. “It still hasn’t really happened to me.”

Society remains stuck in repealing old laws as opposed to resolving income disparities or racial relations or inadequate health care or inefficient public transportation. Until we start talking about it, it can’t be resolved. Until that is resolved, we will always move a little too slow for Ellen Sandor. “Brain + Love +” does its part by starting a conversation, starting with your own mind. Words can’t justify a PHSCologram – check out this visually educational exhibition at the Brown Stone Ilon Art Gallery home until June 25th. WM

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