Talk about a rare bird. A person could easily spend a lifetime in Seattle and never know that geeky electronic-art wizard Robert Teeple existed. For the first time in decades, Teeple has hauled out some of the blinking, mind-twisting little LED animations he creates in his Capitol Hill garage/studio to put on display (through February 4 at Paper Hammer). Each of the 12 programmed light works is built around a concept that it tries to communicate using shifting word combinations and moving images.
Whether Teeple is flashing animated pictograms of science principles, portraits of jazz singers, the names of God, bits of beat poetry (from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”) or haunting images of war, his artworks are as visually mesmerizing as they are intellectually compelling.
Oracle borrows the writing of Noam Chomsky to muse on language and the human brain; Rebus, which gave me pause, uses pictures and letters to imply words and build them into well-worn phrases. For example the phrase “to be” might pop up as the number 2 and a picture of a bee. Teeple said he got hooked on pictogram puzzles, known as rebuses, as a kid, when they were printed on the inside of pop bottle caps. Of course, with those a person could stare as long as it took to figure them out; here the images, like on a readerboard, keep shifting, moving on to a new phrase before the brain has quite decoded the last one. Still, there are pieces that likely will remain enigmatic no matter how long you stare, like the Mayan 260 Day Ritual Calendar Randomized, which blinks out numbers and glyphs in 260 unique combinations.
It’s possible some Seattleites have already encountered Teeple’s art without knowing it. Metro riders who pass through the University Street Station will have come across his brainy electronic-age cave painting Electric Lascaux, which dominates the 60-foot south wall with 28 mounted LED displays referencing the stuff of modern life: science, manufacturing, animals, human faces, word play. Perennially attempting to communicate, Electric Lascaux will enthrall most anyone who takes a moment to engage with its hundreds of animations.
Robert Teeple: LED Animations
Thru Feb 4, Paper Hammer, 1400 Second Ave