Gronk: BrainFlame and Ainadamar

Welcome to the inside of an artist's mind--a 5,000 square-foot digitally animated depiction of what happens during epiphany. Welcome into Gronk's brain and to a powerful new artist medium.

The Arts Technology Center, ARTS Lab, and LodeStar, all of the University of New Mexico, present a world premiere opening of Gronk's BrainFlame. BrainFlame is a 14-minute computer animated piece created specifically for the LodeStar Dome Theater. Describing the flashpoint in a creative thought, we move from a rocky desert landscape through an emerging garden, following an artist up into a giant glass brain. The artist disintegrates into a swirling mass of elemental thought as a new work of art emerges, immersing the audience in the act of creation. This 55-foot hemispheric screen contains 4,750 square feet of digital canvas that fills viewersÕ entire field of vision as they lean back in parallel with the 25-degree tilted dome. Although the LodeStar Dome was originally developed with the purpose of functioning as an astronomy planetarium, there is increasing interest in using this environment as a venue for producing and viewing works of art.

To create this piece, Los Angeles-based artist Gronk worked with UNM's Arts Technology Center through a residency program called Cultural Practice/Virtual Style: Creating an Arts Environment in High Performance Computing. Gronk's BrainFlame was produced as a collaboration between Gronk, Los Angeles-based composer Steven LaPonsie, animator Hue Walker, and a number of students who worked on the animation through a program called the Digital Pueblo Project. Although Gronk had not worked with the media of digital imaging before this project, he was no stranger to the size of a planetarium dome. "People are intimidated by the scope," he commented, "but I've worked larger. Once you engage in understanding it, you open up the possibilities.... I have these small images that are being translated very big. Small lines become heroic when transposed [into this format]."


Like a growing number of contemporary artists, Gronk has chosen not to become identified with one medium. Rather, he has developed an international reputation for a provocative body of work, which includes painting, performance, photography, video, installations and, now, digital media. During the 1970s, he was one of the founding members of ASCO, an avant-garde multi-media arts collective in Los Angeles. Gronk later turned his attention to drawing, painting, and performance art in collaboration with musicians and performers, and stage design for institutions such as the Los Angeles Opera. He is best known for his murals and his very physical approach to painting. Much of his recent work has been done either in series or as temporary, mural-scale, site-specific paintings. Gronk's work is represented in numerous private and museum collections across the country including the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He has been the subject of many one-person exhibitions at museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Mexican Museum in San Francisco.


Currently, Gronk is working with Director Peter Sellars as the scenic designer for this summer's Santa Fe Opera production of Ainadamar (The Fountain of Tears), an opera about the life and death of Federico Garcia Lorca. Ainadamar: Gronk's Designs for the Opera, an exhibition of sketches, models, and related materials from the opera design will be displayed at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum in Albuquerque July 9 - October 30. The opera will be presented in Santa Fe on July 30, August 3, 12, 18, 23, and 26.

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