CHICAGO -- Artists are expressing themselves in a new way with modern technology, but they've got to get their fax right.
"Artists love new toys, to experiment, to look for new visual results," says Karen Indeck, a curator of the University of Illinois' "Faxart" exhibit. "Visual art is about images, and it's an incredible use of a new technology to create these images."
Cosponsored by the University of Illinois School of Art and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, "Faxart" features the work of their alumni and other artists worldwide and is entirely composed of work transmitted by facsimile machine.
On July 2, a fax machine was activated for the show at Gallery 400, an old bra and girdle factory converted into a gallery.
Ever since, the phone has been ringing with entries. Some artists dialed for more than five hours before getting through.
Beyond its novelty, another appeal of fax art to artists is its short-lived quality.
Judith Kitzes, an Evanston-based artist, submitted a piece consisting only of the words "Learn to Live With Ambiguity." The computer-generated sentence is repeated 108 times on 10 sheets of paper.
"I like the idea that I wrote one sentence, repeated it, the original in the computer does not exist, the original on paper I destroyed after faxing it, and the work of art -- the fax -- will fade," Kitzes says.
"It's a contradiction of what we expect art to be -- this precious thing. It really isn't. That's something that appeals to my sense of the bizarre: self-destructive art."
The transient, informal nature of the medium also appealed to Indeck and co-curator Mary Min, who have been busy pinning and taping landscapes, abstracts and portraits to the walls and columns at Gallery 400.
Since Indeck and Min plugged in the donated fax machine and loaded the first roll of paper, about 900 artworks have been received.
The show is the first major exhibit featuring only fax art, its curators say.
David Hockney's 144-sheet tennis match, faxed from California to a gallery in Saltaire, England in November, is one of the first fax art pieces ever exhibited.
So far, Indeck and Min have used 1,600 pushpins and countless rolls of double-sided tape to hang about 300 works, some from as far away as Spain and the Netherlands.
The rest lie in piles on the floor.
Just hours before the exhibit was to open to the public earlier this month, an uninterrupted stream of works still flowed from the fax machine while an assistant sorted and filed the entries.
Min says the challenge of creating images that would have an impact even after being faxed -- and the speed by which those images could be transmitted worldwide -- sparked her curiosity.
"You finish something, you send it out, and you get a response -- it's an artist's dream," says Min, a Chicago-based neon artist.
"And when the show's over, poof! It's gone."
Images created on the thermal paper used in fax machines last about six months -- less if they're exposed to sunlight or bright artificial illumination.
Fax art can be carefully preserved by de-acidifying the paper, but not the works exhibited at "Faxart."
Min said the pieces will be recycled when the show closes Aug. 17.