Jennifer Steinkamp, Impeach 1, 2019, video installation, dimensions variable. Photo: Matthew Herrmann. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

Work / Animation

3D animation pioneer Jennifer Steinkamp on her current solo show, Impeach

As we encounter increasing amounts of 3D animation here at the It’s Nice That office, it’s easy to forget where this relatively new form of art originated. The LA-based artist Jennifer Steinkamp is a pioneer in the field of 3D animation, working exclusively in digital media to beautifully render “organic and abstract forms in motion”. On the subject of her work, she tells It’s Nice That, “I am fascinated by software’s ability to create ideas we would never conceive of in the natural world.”

Currently exhibiting at New York’s Lehmann Maupin, Jennifer’s solo show Impeach is showing until mid-April, showcasing four of the artist’s recent video installations that immerse the audience in a digital landscape. On first glance, Jennifer’s large-scale video installations seem like live action sequences. The lifelike motion of Blind Eye 3, a panoramic projection of a densely packed birch tree forest, moves as if the wind has just rushed through the green foliage.

The centrepiece of the exhibition, its titular piece, sees a torrent of tumbling fruit diving into an invisible wall. Highly realistic and bursting with vivid colour, the public art piece “hints at the possibility of a new spring for America, should the titular political and legal process be set in motion, as well as the destruction left in its wake.” The highly skilled animations evidence Jennifer’s experience in the medium. “I became interested in 3D back in 1982 when I took a class called ‘Video Art’ at Caltech in Pasadena,” she says.

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Jennifer Steinkamp: Impeach​. Installation view, Lehmann Maupin, New York 2019. Photo: Matthew Herrmann

Taught by Gene Youngblood, who is well known for his book Expanded Cinema, Jennifer was introduced to early computer animation and structuralist films in Gene’s class. “I basically became very interested in both,” she adds, “these two ideas presented by Gene, changed the way I considered what art can do. In addition, The Museum of Contemporary Art was just opening in LA, they had an amazing exhibition of phenomenological installation art.”

Since then, Jennifer has continuously worked with animation and motion conceptually. She transforms space and in turn, challenges the viewer’s idea of what is possible within animation. Over time, and with technological advances, Jennifer comments: “My imagery has changed along with the computer’s abilities. Additionally, the technology to display video has radically changed. Every year, I have more pixels and a higher resolution, and this gives me much more detail to consider.”

With future hopes that the medium of 3D animation will become “easier to do, faster to render, and always more inventive”, Jennifer will no doubt continue to create experiential video installations that push digital art to its technical and conceptual heights. Encapsulated in her present show Impeach, Jennifer creates a space where the viewer is affected by the animations surrounding them. She finally adds, “The thing I would like viewers to find in my work is the sensation or feeling you get when you are affected by imagery, motion and space. There is something that happens when you think about what it can mean to be alive; it is something that dancers know.”

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Jennifer Steinkamp: Impeach 1, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

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Jennifer Steinkamp: Retinal 1, 2018. video installation. dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

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Jennifer Steinkamp: Retinal 2, 2019. video installation. dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

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Jennifer Steinkamp: Blind Eye, Impeach. Installation view, Lehmann Maupin, New York 2019. Photo: Matthew Herrmann

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Jennifer Steinkamp: Blind Eye installation, Impeach. Installation view, Lehmann Maupin, New York 2019. Photo: Matthew Herrmann