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Chelsea Gallery Melds Art and Tech Worlds

By DNAinfo Staff on July 19, 2011 7:03am

By Lily Rothman

Special to DNAinfo

MANHATTAN — Chelsea and the Flatiron District may share a boundary, but the two Manhattan neighborhoods have traditionally been worlds apart.

The former is known as the site of the city’s most established art gallery scene. The latter is the original “Silicon Alley,” home of many local technology start-up businesses.

But now a new addition to the neighborhood, the IMC Lab and Gallery, is bridging the gap — as well as many others.

IMC, which stands for Interactive Media Culture, is an office-slash-gallery that is currently home to a new exhibition that highlights the juxtaposition between art and technology.

The show, titled "Elastic Identity," features works that speak to the artists’ fractured selves in a digital age, said James Tunick, the founder of IMC Lab and half of the husband-wife team that runs the gallery.

“Technology is not something separate. It’s just another set of paints,” Tunick said, “The same technology powers the art that powers billboards in Times Square.”

The show includes traditional media such as painting, but also video and software installations. One installation uses a proprietary face-tracking technology developed by IMC to create fragmented images of the viewer. The same technology can be employed in advertisements, and that dual artistic-commercial mission is part of IMC Lab’s own multiplicity.

The IMC Lab and Gallery is a for-profit enterprise that, unlike most galleries, doesn’t just sell art. The group also offers artists and programmers research support and commercial opportunities, said Tunick, so opening a gallery was a natural choice for this technology company.

He said that unlike other galleries that tend to separate old and new media, IMC Lab prefers to bring them together.

Just as technology has allowed aspiring rock stars to record their own music before signing a contract and has let directors edit their own movies, Tunick sees potential for the same in the fine art world.

Tunick and his wife, Carrie Elston Tunick, are also artists themselves. Their work, as well as the work of Yeji Jun, the show’s third curator, is on display at the gallery.

Although the gallery-creator division is traditionally a sharp one, Elston Tunick sees the many hyphenates at play as part of a much larger trend. “That’s happening more and more, people having a lot of irons in the fire,” she said.

One of her pieces in the exhibit is a video installation of footage from Michael Jackson concerts, which she says is "blurring the lines between opposing emotions, agony and ecstasy."

The Tunicks have been putting shows together since 2002, when they were undergraduates at Yale. Both 30 years old, the couple says they are young for gallery owners and old for technology entrepreneurs — “so that’s average,” joked Elston Tunick.

They started the IMC Lab and Gallery in the West Village, but moved to Chelsea in January despite a migration by many other galleries for emerging artists to areas like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side.

Still, the pair say that Chelsea is the place to be for established galleries.

“We were really lucky to have found this place,” said Elston Tunick.

Elastic Identity is on view through August 25, and the gallery plans to host live performances and an artists’ panel in the coming month.