San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Modern Art Council Honors Pioneering Media Artist Jim Campbell with Lifetime Achievement Award

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) honors Campbell with this year’s Bay Area Treasure Award at a presentation and dinner on Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Organized by SFMOMA’s Modern Art Council, the museum’s premier fund-raising auxiliary, this annual lifetime achievement award recognizes Bay Area–based artists who continually redefine the field of contemporary art.

Artist Jim Campbell at SFMOMA with Exploded Views, July 2012; photo: Charles Villyard

Campbell is the 13th Bay Area Treasure Award honoree; previous recipients include painters Robert Bechtle, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveria, Wayne Thiebaud, and William T. Wiley; sculptors Richard Serra and Mark di Suvero; sound artist Bill Fontana; industrial designer Sara Little Turnbull; architect Lawrence Halprin; and photographers Ruth Bernhard and Larry Sultan.

In response to the popularity of the event—formerly a luncheon—the Bay Area Treasure Award will be celebrated this year with an elegant dinner at The St. Regis San Francisco. The evening will feature a conversation with Campbell, SFMOMA Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling, and San Francisco–based media artist Scott Snibbe, as well as a screening of a new short film about Campbell’s practice.

A pre-event champagne reception for premier ticket holders will be held in SFMOMA’s Haas Atrium beneath Campbell’s suspended installation Exploded Views (2011), a large-scale cinematic sculpture that features nearly 3,000 flickering LED lights (currently on view to the public in its final months, through Oct. 23, 2012).

Proceeds from the Bay Area Treasure Award event support SFMOMA’s exhibitions and enable the museum to serve more than 50,000 students, teachers, and families annually through innovative education programs.

Campbell’s groundbreaking multimedia work is both abstract and representational, integrating custom-built responsive computer technologies with a sculptural approach to light that explodes 2D images into three-dimensional form. In many of the artist’s installations, the position of the viewer is central to the experience of the work, exploring his ongoing fascination with time, memory, the nature of movement, and the boundaries of visual perception.

Born in 1956 in Chicago, Campbell received degrees in both electrical engineering and mathematics from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As an engineer, he holds more than a dozen patents in the field of image processing and high-definition broadcast, and also has a background in filmmaking. Eventually Campbell fused his artistic and scientific backgrounds, and in the 1980s began creating video works and interactive installations using custom electronics that he designed for the unique purpose of each installation.

Recently, visitors to New York City’s Madison Square Park experienced Campbell’s monumental three-dimensional outdoor work titled Scattered Light (2010), which displayed hundreds of dangling lightbulbs that seemed to flicker at random. Upon closer observation, viewers could make out shadowy human figures moving across the illuminated grid of LED screens.

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