Three-dimensional imaging and printing, Burton says, “opens up the field of what can be designed. Incredibly intricate details can be designed.” In addition, the technology means that “pretty much anybody now could be a designer.”
This is what intrigues Jonathan Monaghan, who uses the process in his video work. “I’m interested in the democratization aspect of it,” says the artist, a 2011 University of Maryland MFA who teaches at the Corcoran School of Art & Design and is a 3-D art consultant for Prince Georges’s Community College.
Two years ago, Monaghan did a stint as artist-in-residence at MakerBot, a New York firm that makes some of the least expensive 3-D printers, selling for less than $2,000. He also participated in a 2012 “hackathon” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where participants used consumer-grade 3-D devices to make reproductions, interpretations and “remixes” of art from the collection.
Such technology “allows people to be more creative,” Monaghan says. “It turns everybody from a consumer to a content producer. And I think that is where it gets really interesting.”
Yet on his Web site, the artist, best know for video animations, classifies much of his work made with 3-D printers as “research,” not art. “Because the consumer-grade technology prints in a cheap plastic, I find it a little hard to call the projects I do with it fine art,” he says. “I like to think the art exists more in the process behind them than the actual object.”
Some of Monaghan’s videos integrate characters from video games into environments derived from baroque and neoclassical architecture, and he has used 3-D printing to create sculptures that suggest Gothic cathedrals. “Those were created with a $30,000 Stratasys Dimension,” he notes.” That plastic, although it’s similar material, is more expensive.
“The MakerBot’s plastic is very cheap,” he continues, “so you can print out a lot of things and not spend much money. It really lends itself to experimentation, using it as a workshop tool, and to just having fun.”
When making his cathedral-like pieces, Monaghan essentially draws them with software. “I can make a simple geometric form within minutes,” he says, though his Gothic constructions “could take a couple weeks of tinkering around.”
Where Monaghan’s work is often rooted in commercial digital imagery, Dreyfuss takes his inspiration from Edgar Degas, Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi, sculptors whose curves were created without computer software.
“I don’t want to use the computer to make something I can’t make,” Dreyfuss says. “I want to use the computer to make better things I can make.”
He always begins a sculpture by drawing it, then makes a wax maquette. Only after these traditional steps does he turn to the Rhinoceros software and 3-D printing. He follows this procedure whether devising a giant lyre to be exhibited outdoors in Qatar, where Islamic custom forbids images of living things, or the near-abstract “Inventions” that will be shown at the Kreeger Museum, beginning May 9.
“At each step, I’m trying to get ownership of the piece,” says Dreyfuss. One reason he’s so pleased with 3-D imaging, he explains, is that “as the piece is enlarged, it doesn’t lose the hand of the artist.”
Can computers fill the role of choreographer?