Mark Diamond. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond.
The brain inside your skull is a complicated mess composed of smaller messes, each of them equipped with separate, yet cross-functional functions. It routes blood, electricity, and chemicals through a molecularly expansive network that you and the rest of the inquiring human race will never fully comprehend, but which certain shadowy powers will continue to manipulate. Attach two optic nerves and some eyeballs Et Voilà, you get a moving picture of the visual world. Or at least, one small slice of it.
Mark Diamond is an artist in Miami whose recent show, “Spatial Recognition,” at the Swampspace Gallery, showcased a year’s worth of efforts 3 Dimensional photography. The 3-D images were made from Diamond’s personal photographs of artists and musicians that he’s had the fortune of meeting and conversing, and include a fingerpicking Les Paul (co-produced with Clayton Munsey), an illustration of R. Buckminster Fuller, and Kenny Scharf taking a piss on a Wynwood Wall. There are also 3D renderings of sculptures, paintings, and other works by artists local and not, as well as some natural shots of begonias, purple cabbage, and some fractal cactus – but the portraits are without a doubt the most mesmerizing.
Les Paul. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond and Clayton Munsey.
R. Buckminster Fuller. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond.
Kenny Scharf. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond.
These 2D versions are flat imposters of their real selves; it’s impossible to represent them on this screen because of the necessity of light and movement in modulating the thousands of optic cells on each of these prints, which creates the holographic effect of movement. Alongside the portraits, there were several viewfinders built into the walls: binoculars you must more-or-less cross your eyes for in order to see the foreground, background, and grounds in between. One shows a series of bucolic landscape shots taken aerially from a helicopter over Miami, another shows a Miami Beach home that’s been preserved just as it was left when the owners lived in the 1960’s.
Visitor and view finder. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond
There were in total 250 works present, but if you include the number of images required to concoct each 3D work, the number is somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000. Each has a unique degree of depth and range of motion, and all require the viewer to come in close, back off, reorient, pace back-and-forth, and strain (but then relax) the retinas. All the people I observed observing these images seemed transfixed, or at least amused. The subjects and styles straddle a kitschiness that Diamond himself acknowledges, but for him, what’s important is the play between the 3 dimensional subject, optics, and the audience. What follows are GIFs showing the series of images used in a 3D image of Diamond’s, so you get an idea of the effect (it’s impossible, though, to get the full monty without seeing it in person):
Sam Moree. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond.
Elvis Keel. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond.
Many of the works are proofs that are still in progress, and they represent the 4,000-plus hours of experimentation that Diamond has conducted over the past year with a 100 year old 3-D technique, now gone digital, that on the scope of its possibility he has only begun to engage with. It’s known variously as a lenticular, xographic, or parallax panoramagramic process, and it comes on the heels of Diamond’s 40+ years of tinkering with the three-dimensional. The process of making these images – combining 3D photography and holography – is one that’s rarely been attempted. Though Diamond told me, “If you wanna know how something is done, I will tell you precisely how it’s done,” there are hints that he is working in a field shrouded in alchemical mystery and Cold War-Era intrigue, and suspicions that he may be working as a Double or even Triple Agent were perked when it came to light that he “traveled to study with a Russian programmer in hopes of acclimating to the software he had written for creating these images.”
Diamond got his start in the 3D art world when he saw his first hologram at a Coconut Grove Arts Festival in the early 70s at 12 years old. At 16 he worked as a teenaged photographer working for a radical leftist news services. He worked for an organization called the Liberation News Service and did things like take pictures of Jerry Rubin and reported on the RNC Convention in ’72 in Miami, further evidence that he may in fact be churning out Manchurian Candidates for this election year. Really though, he comes from a family of photographers, who “told stories through pictures,” and his passion for crystallized moments is obvious in the show.
I visited Diamond at his home in El Portal. It’s a well-kept abode filled with art on the walls, stringed instruments and amplifiers, a very well stocked library, and a studio fitted with cameras, pneumatic sliders, and caches of papers. His home and workspace are manifestations of a mind constantly at work, one that makes dizzying leaps between histories of art, semiotics, material sciences, optics, and sociopolitical musing. He unloads references with the authorial sweep of a professor, though he has no formal training. He is, as he said, “self-taught,” and “a student of human visual perception…” He’s got a radicalism wrought from his start as a political photog, and exalts the Duchampian notion that “art is whatever the artist says it is,” and “recommend(s) that kids don’t go to art school.”
Bart Bakes Batter Boy. Image Courtesy: Mark Diamond
Diamond, who has the curly hair and humor of a George Carlin and the white mustachioed learnedness of someone close to an Einstein, is a nocturnal creature that works in the silence of night, laboring in a laser lab that requires a near-zero amount of sonic vibrations from cars or people in order to execute the 3D imaging process correctly. His inviting warmth is infectious, as is his zeal for the visual world around us. What he claims to want is for people to stop and see things, to get past or forget for a moment the normal, everyday logging and cross-correlating of objects, shapes and colors that we’ve evolved to perform, and be able to appreciate the verisimilitude before us, and the furious work our brain does right behind our eyes[.]
“Spatial Recognition” closed today at SwampSpace in Miami’s Design District.