Installation by UO art professor transforms neon into spatial experience

Kartz Ucci

Art professor Kartz Ucci is taking up residence in Portland for the spring term . . . and so is her artwork. As part of the new Portland 2010 biennial, Ucci’s video installation at the Alpern Gallery in northwest Portland will be on view from April 2 to 24. A reception for the artist happens Friday, April 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. The gallery is located at 2552 N.W. Vaughn St. in Portland. Hours are Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Across town, Ucci will serve as artist-in-residence at the John Ross Condominiums at South Waterfront throughout the spring term. She is also teaching two digital arts classes at the UO’s White Stag Block.

Portland 2010, a successor to the former Oregon Biennial, brings together 18 artists spread out among 6 different spaces between March and May. The event is organized by non-profit Disjecta and curated by Cris Moss, gallery director at Linfield College.

Ucci’s installation, “I Want to Be a Lighthouse Keeper,” is a close focused, high-resolution video recording of a 5 mm thick rod of blue neon that has been sped up to reveal the fluctuating luminosity of the neon gas. An amplified recording of the electrical hum of the neon transformer sweeps across the room from a 360 degree soundbar. Ucci describes the work as a distilled, constructed view of a horizon line, filled with potential yet empty. Its motion is that of particles of light and their magnetic oscillation at the frequency of the alternating electrical current, she said.

Kartz Ucci - Production Still

Originally conceived in 2008, she was unable to show the actual neon she’d had manufactured because a gallery’s space in Delaware was interrupted by columns. “Because I was unable to show the work as intended, I decided to shoot the neon as a video, and I liked how the camera was able to capture the fluctuations in light. It was a happy accident.”

Though some of the Portland 2010 exhibits are group shows, the curator selected an individual exhibition space for Ucci’s video and sound installation due to its minimal quality.

Ucci will also contribute to an event-capping group show of Portland 2010 artists at the UO’s White Box in the White Stag Building from April 6 to 17. Ucci said she plans to include a second piece that exploits the visual properties of custom neon. The White Box, 24 NW First Ave., is open Tuesdays to Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

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