Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots

(Moraga, CA) July 10, 2019—A new exhibition at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art explores boundaries between humans and machines, integrating spirituality and mysticism through an unlikely form –robots.

Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots, on view from July 25 through December 8, 2019, presents thirteen interactive sculptures and three dialogical photographs by the San Francisco artist, Kal Spelletich (b. 1960). A leader in the machine art scene, Spelletich has lived and worked in South San Francisco for 30 years. His art merges obsolete materials into constructed machines that interact with humans in unexpected ways.  In Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots, sensors enable the sculptures to react to participants with individual responses. The robotic sculptures cannot store the memory of these spontaneous movements. This is intentional, Spelletich believes, “they are optimistic alternatives that subvert technology’s intended functional use and break the barrier of exclusive access that promotes passive consumption." 

Lifesize Mark Pauline is one of three sculptures modeled after individuals in Spelletich’s development. Named for his long-time friend and creator of the 1978 Survival Research Laboratories, Mark Pauline wears his namesake’s discarded baggy jumpsuit as he shifts from all fours to an upright position on his knees, arms stretched out –emulating the motions of prayer. The sculpture is paired with a digital photograph capturing the celestial extremes of the sun and moon events occurring during the robot’s construction. Spelletich crafts his machines with human-like attributes to provoke, “experiences focused on the somatic and phycological aspects of being human.” Purposeful Breathing Pillow slowly inhales and exhales in the recorded and timed rhythm of Spelletich’s own breathing patterns.  As the participant presses down on a button, the air is pulled into the pillowcase inflating the form acutely and then releasing –evoking the haunting sounds and rhythm of life.

The installation sculpture, Strawberry Creek Harp, created in response to SMC | MoA’s William Keith painting reimagines themes from Strawberry Creek in Berkeley, California. The installation combines two disparate concepts, nature and technology, spirituality and robots. Spelletich explains, “I create experiences that explore the human desire for transcendence because ultimately humanity will prevail over technology.” Venturing into the creek, Spelletich positioned a repurposed electronic harp by the creek bed. Sensing the motion of the water through a detached robotic device, the electrical harp generates notes that react to the variable velocity of the creek’s speed. The performance is recorded and presented concurrently with the instruments and William Keith’s Strawberry Creek. The installation exhibits Spelletich’s conversation with art history and reinterprets the transcendentalist notions of spiritualism and nature.

Kal Spelletich: Significance Machines and Purposeful Robots —Spelletich’s first individual museum exhibition– is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by Anuradha Vikram and Tanya Zimbardo, a foreword by Lauren MacDonald, Museum of Art Director, an artist interview with Catharine Clark, and an exhibition statement by April Bojorquez, Museum of Art Curator.  The catalogue is available for purchase at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art Store.

On view from July 25 through December 8, 2019, this exhibition is organized by April Bojorquez, curator at Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art and is presented in partnership with the Catharine Clark Gallery. The reception will be held on Thursday, September 5 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  An artist panel and discussion will be held on Thursday, October 10 at the Soda Center on the Saint Mary’s College of California campus from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. For more information on programming please visit, www.stmarys-ca.edu/museum.

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About the Artist

Kal Spelletich, born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, earned his Bachelor’s of Fine Art from the University of Iowa and Master’s of Fine Art from the University of Texas at Austin, both in the field of Media Art. Spelletich has performed, exhibited, and lectured worldwide, collaborating with scientists, musicians, and politicians in Namibia, India, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, France, Czech Republic, England, Slovakia, and Austria. Recently, he was a resident artist at Recology SF and built artificial organs during a residency at Stochastic Labs, Berkeley, California. Spelletich’s work appeared in numerous exhibitions over the past three decades including the de Young Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Exploratorium, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, among others. Spelletich lives and works in San Francisco, California where he is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery.

Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art

Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art (SMC | MoA) is a landmark for art in Northern California, with a permanent collection of over 5,000 pieces. Inspired by its founder Brother Cornelius Braeg, MoA cares for the most extensive William Keith collection in the nation. MoA provides educational and programming opportunities for Saint Mary’s College of California students and the surrounding community. The Museum is located on the Saint Mary’s College of California campus, 1928 St. Mary’s Road. Moraga, CA, 94575. Admission is free for everyone. MoA is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. the third Thursday of the month. For information, call 925-631-4379 or visit the Museum website for hours, programming, and event information: www.stmarys-ca.edu/museum.