(Photo: Travis Hutchison)
The latest exhibit in the fashion-design gallery at the Phoenix Art Museum might look a little skimpy at first. Just three ensembles on display, and ... what are those? Album covers. Psychedelic, like the clothes. But the centerpiece of the show is invisible until you duck into one of three alcoves, each with a pair of VR goggles.
Yes, 3-D virtual reality has come to the art museum, and it has brought Andy Warhol and David Bowie along for the ride.
“Moonage Virtual Reality,” which opened on Saturday, Aug. 11, features three short VR films, or experiences. One is more of an environment, a room filled with bric-a-brac that vibrates in ultraneon colors. Another is a three-dimensional music video, ultimately, with Bowie’s “Hang On to Yourself” playing to swirling images of the singer’s flamboyant early-’70s performances. The third is constructed from photos from Warhol’s studio, the Factory, from the ’60s, and it’s long enough for more than one Velvet Underground track.
"Billy Name's The Warhol Silver Factory" is one of three virtual-reality films in the Phoenix Art Museum's "Moonage Virtual Reality" exhibit. (Photo: Travis Hutchison)
The effect feels hallucinogenic, although part of that might just be the disorientation of the illusion of floating in space. No, you don’t stand. And you will probably look a little silly to passers-by as you swivel around in your chair, head zooming to the sky and then into the depths of an abyss.
“Moonage Virtual Reality” is the brainchild of Los Angeles native Travis Hutchison.
“Most people that are doing VR are creating through CGI, animating,” he says. “I wanted to take something that already had substance and bring it into the VR. ...
“This is like bringing the past, lo-def, and the present, hi-def, together.”
Hutchison, 49, was already a photographer and a music lover in his early teens, when he discovered Bowie and, through him, Warhol. So it was no surprise that the LA kid ended up in New York and eventually became friends with fellow artists, some of whom didn’t need to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to drop certain names.
"Kenny Scharf's Cosmic Cavern" is a VR experience by artist Travis Hutchison. (Photo: Travis Hutchison)
One was Billy Name (now there’s a great name), who was part of the Factory for two years and whose photographs are now featured in “Moonage Virtual Reality.” Another was Mick Rock, famed for his images of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, among many other icons of the era.
The exhibit is as much about their art as photographers as it is about the more famous names. Ditto for the third VR experience, adapted from work of “Pop-Surrealist” Kenny Scharf.
The RL portion of the exhibit is pretty psychedelic, too, including a pair of Stephen Sprouse outfits based on Warhol prints, all from the museum’s permanent fashion-design collection.
So yes, you can still take a selfie.
‘Moonage Virtual Reality’
When: Aug. 11-Sept. 30.
Where: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave.
Details: 602-257-1222, phxart.org.