February 12, 2003

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'LED Images: Studies in Motion and Rest'
Through April 3, Exploratorium

LIKE EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE'S classic photo-motion studies of galloping horses, Jim Campbell's LED images use photography to distill the "essentials" of motion. Starting with high-contrast digital video footage of people walking and sitting, he reduces the resolution of each frame until it contains, in some cases, as few as 48 pixels. The images are replayed in the gallery on a grid of LED lights, and you have to back up a ways before your eyes can resolve the blinking lights into the form of a moving person. It's not surprising that a science museum would be interested in Campbell, who has long been a mainstay of San Francisco's gallery scene; as technology-intensive eye games that investigate the physiology of sight, his LED picture-sculptures fit in perfectly with the Exploratorium's "Seeing" exhibit. One in particular plays not only with the threshold between seeing and not seeing, but also with the threshold between digital and analog, using a Plexiglas screen to blur the spaces between individual pixels. With this particular series, however, Campbell complicates his previous artistic projects by using only images of disabled people: on crutches, with walkers, hunched over, lurching, or hobbling. He asks us to identify with the subjects as humans and to sympathize with them as emotionally sentient beings who feel pain, frustration, and awkwardness, thus redefining his art in an almost classical sense by appealing to the viewer's "higher" emotions while stimulating the mind and celebrating the human body. Also on view at the Exploratorium through May 4 is Eto Otitigbe's "Folkall Project," a sculpture made of donated eyeglasses. Bring your old specs to the museum and add them to this dynamic work of art, which will eventually be donated to the needy in foreign countries. Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 3601 Lyon, S.F. $6-$10; free for three and under. (415) EXP-LORE. (Lindsey Westbrook)