At 3321 West Fullerton, Deadtech is easy to miss if you don’t notice the silvery letters that spell its name against a brick exterior. Ring the buzzer and curator Rob Ray, an unassuming figure in skater clothes, will likely buzz you in. Whizzing, electrically powered works of art will greet you inside the bare white interior of his gallery—through December 18, Jeremy Boyle’s rotating projection of a purple moonlike sphere spins inside a circular axis, a pair of wire-entangled rock band instruments play themselves and sculptural representations of white, pink and brown noise come complete with the scientifically calibrated sounds themselves.
Rob Ray began decoding computers at age 9 and eventually found himself using his technological precocity in high-school art class. He found his approach less accepted at the college level, and was inspired by the DIY punk ethic of the 1990s to move to Chicago and open up his own technology-focused art gallery with the outlook that he would simply “see who shows up.” Since then, he’s found himself likeminded gallery partners in new-media artists Alexander Stewart and Taylor Hokanson and has seen artists from across the country make the trek to his modest but reputable space.
In the increasingly innovative art world, Ray now sees artists who’ve shown at Deadtech show at places like the MCA as well, but his space remains relevant for its ability to offer greater flexibility and nearly nonexistent restrictions. “We are pretty liberal about what you can get away with here,” says Ray, a statement backed by a previous piece of his which launched bottles of beer into the wall at sixty miles-per-hour. Deadtech has also played host to the Seemen, a “machine performance” group originally from Texas. “They use a lot, a lot, a lot of fire in their work, and large-scale robotics to entrap people,” says Ray, instantly underlining the kind of free-form logistics that set Deadtech apart.
To some, standing inside a ring of fire may sound more like a participatory circus act than a work of art. But Ray sees a deeper meaning behind such pieces, which he says “make you reconsider what your life is about and how you think about your daily life.” His clearly articulated statement is characteristic of Ray’s methods of explanation, whether he’s describing how Boyle’s self-playing instruments are powered by compressed air or recounting the construction process for one of the many outlandish works to make their way through his gallery. Deadtech’s personalized approach to the creation and display of art pays off in one important way for visitors: someone will be there to explain to you how everything works. (Cory Robertson)
Deadtech is located at 3321 West Fullerton, (773)426-2828.