Christopher Taggart started his college studies in physics and switched to art when he went to graduate school. It's not surprising, then, that his work on view at the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento, blends science and art in fascinating ways. At its heart, it is about the process of perception.
In a back room of the gallery, Taggart has applied splotches of dark and light patterns to walls and ceiling and placed a mobile video camera on the floor. The camera sweeps the room, translating the odd bits of information into a video image of his wife's eyes. It's a strange kind of portraiture, one in which the viewer is also pictured as if the eyes on the screen were seeing her.
Portraiture, too, is the focus of "Portrait of a Photographer (With a Dozen of Her Portraits)." Here Taggart has taken 12 pictures of the photographer holding 12 of her portraits, cut up the images and reassembled them into an intricately interwoven image of the photographer and her work.
Similar in method is "People Looking at People," a monumental work made up of dissected and reassembled photos taken at the top of the Empire State Building. It's a fugue of images of people looking over the fence at the top of the building, the buildings below and the sky. It's an imposing and complex piece in which you find new things each time you look at it.
"Self-Portrait as a Ghost (Boy)" is a drawing that comes from a series Taggart made of images from Facebook of people with the same name as his. Using computer analysis, he translated the pixels in the images into concentric circles which he then drew on paper with blue ink. The result is an out-of- focus image with a spectral quality that seems made up of purely abstract lines.
More complicated is the process by which he produces "Kudu (In the International Style)," an image of an African antelope made of scribed and engraved lines on an anodized aluminum panel. Building the image from found sources, such as bananas, he inscribes engraved lines in silver on black that almost have a three-dimensional feeling. Out of a seeming welter of markings, an image of an elegant beast appears.
Complex, too, is "Ta Ta," a large sculpture that resembles an elephant tusk or a giant snail shell emerging from the wall. Made by a complicated engineering process in which triangular sections of photographs of rows of teeth become increasingly small in size, it's a strangely beautiful object.
A similar method is used to make a sculpture of a turkey leg that morphs into a human thumb, a witty small piece that mimics the texture of meat and skin, and an elaborate piece involving a football and a strawberry-shaped double of the football that is inflated with the help of a water pump. It's an amalgam of high science and Rube Goldberg-like machinery that both amazes and delights.
I don't pretend to understand all the ramification and intricate manipulations involved in Taggart's work, but the bottom line is that these things look good and are thought-provoking and extremely well-crafted. It's one of the most inventive shows I've seen in some time.
CHRISTOPHER TAGGART: TIME FUGITIVES
What: The artist examines the process of perception.
Where: Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento, 1519 19th St.
When: Noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 6-9 p.m. Second Saturday, through Feb. 12.
Contact: (916) 498-9811, www.ccasac.org