The HoloCenter is a New York-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to educating the public about the beautiful art and science of holograms and holographic. After presenting exhibitions on Governors Island several years in a row, in May of 2019, the HoloCenter will be on Manhattan’s Canal Street displaying the works of eleven artists.

IRIDESCENCE,” as the Canal Street exhibition is titled, includes beautiful photo-realistic and abstract works that all contain holographic elements. Featured artists include Michael Bleyenberg, Lana Blum, Patrick Boyd, Philippe Boissonnet, Betsy Connors, Sam Moree, Pascal Gauchet, Setsuko Ishii, Ray Park, August Muth, and Fred Unterseher.

All of the exhibiting artists were awarded production funding via the Hologram Foundation. Each piece of artwork represents a significant investment of time, skills, and technology to develop the fledgling medium of holographic Art. The artists range in experience from emerging to pioneers.

Holographic art is an intersection of physics and imagination. The works on display at IRIDESCENCE contemplate themes including nature, culture, and memory. Relationships of light and time, of the body and of spirituality, all play into the creation of these holograms which are essentially “sculptures of light.” The holographic artworks alter depending on the angle from which they are viewed.

The Paris based Hologram Foundation has been described as a funding pool for art production. It actively supports contemporary artists in their creation of holograms which are designed to be displayed in public environments. Collaborating with the HoloCenter to bring IRIDESCENCE to Canal Street is their latest effort to promote this art form.

To enter into “IRIDESCENCE” is to enter into a world of wonder and beauty. Gone is a Canal Street storefront and, instead, is a dreamscape of color, imagination, and playful and lively art that seemingly follows you around the room.

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The miracle of holograms is that, from different angles, they change color and even alter in shape--challenging one’s perception of them and the space in which they are housed. Brilliantly curated, the show features work of abstract, realistic, and naturalist themes making its offerings suitable for viewers with a wide range of different tastes and styles.

I recently spoke to curator and HoloCenter’s Creative Director Martina Mrongovius, Ph.D., who discussed her experiences organizing the show and working with Wallplay to present this exhibition ON CANAL.

Grants, artists, and WallPlay

Meagan Meehan (Q): How did you get involved with Wallplay and what most excites you about getting a space ON CANAL?

Martina Mrongovius (MM): I first reached out to Wallplay in 2014 when they were on Delancey Street and the building that housed the HoloCenter's gallery in Long Island City was sold. I was looking for a large projection wall to showcase “Peace Lights” that was being developed by Pete Rogina and Elieen Cohen. We've stayed in contact through projects, Julia Sinelnikova had a residency at the HoloCenter on Governors Island in 2016 where she developed an installation and hand cut the mylar that became part of 'Organ Farm' shown by Wallplay when they were in Industry City.

Last year I exhibited with OSMUNDA when they were at Gallery 151 operated by Wallplay on 14th Street. I wanted to bring IRIDESCENCE to Manhattan so proposed the exhibition to Wallplay.

Being ON CANAL we are around the corner from the original Museum of Holography that was at 11 Mercer Street until 1992. Now Soho is a hub for media and technology and it is great to be part of the Art+Technology offerings of ON CANAL. This collision of past and future adds something to IRIDESCENCE that is hard to describe.

Q: What kind of turn out did you have on opening night and what sorts of feedback have you gotten from the public so far?

MM: We have been overwhelmed with the response to this exhibition. We had people knocking on the door before the opening wanting to get in to see the art holograms and they kept coming all night for the opening. We had visitors from across the USA travel to see the show, and more holographic artists in one room than New York has experienced in years. Our security gave an impromptu live music performance halfway through the night with a local musician.

It was amazing. People love the artwork, and the exhibition brings together diverse styles, so almost everyone finds a piece that really speaks to them.

Q: What was the process of getting grants for the artists like?

MM: The Holographic Art Grant is the only funding for artists dedicated to hologram production. For the artist's this means we know the costs and they don't have to spend half of the proposal spelling out what is a hologram. Beyond the money though we support the artists. We connect them to resources and offer technical support if needed. The grant is open to artists at all stages of their career so it means something different for everyone.

Fred Unterseher – a pioneer of the art form, was able to make a series of holograms at the Light Foundry from pulse laser masters he recorded in the 1980s while for Lana Blum the grant enabled her first hologram artworks.

Holography, art, and the coming summer

Q: How do you envision holography expanding as an art form in the coming years?

MM: If you think about the history of photography and how long it took art photography to develop, we are still at an early stage of holography. The analogue art form of holography is stepping into its own, artists have become masters and the works they can produce are beautiful art objects.

Art holograms are still very rare in comparison to other art mediums.

The various forms of digital holography open up new mode of expression – such as Lana Blum's series of digital hologram prints that combine 3D scanning of dancers with computer-generated art. The most advanced digital hologram printing methods are for small security holograms – I would love to see this technology used for art.

Photonics and the manipulation of materials at nano-scales is having a huge impact on the industry and some fascinating projects are emerging. Take a look at the Optical Materials Express feature on 'Design, Manufacture, and Analysis of Photonic Materials for Historical and Modern Visual Arts' if you are interested in learning more about this research.

The digital is also becoming more holographic. The HoloCenter's next exhibition “Holographic Embodiment” explores our relationship to imagery and immersion. The exhibition includes hologram portraits drawn in VR by Ioana Pioaru and an augment reality drawing installation that we are creating in collaboration with Jump into the Light.

Q: What’s next for the HoloCenter as we head into the summer of 2019?

MM: The HoloCenter will return to Governors Island in New York for September and October with “Holographic Embodiment” and we are planning to bring IRIDESCENCE to Paris.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to mention and have me quote?

MM: The Holographic Art Grant was the idea of Hugues Souparis who founded the Hologram Foundation to support artists. His company Surys puts holograms on passports, currency and other documents. Hugues Souparis makes more holograms a year than anyone I know. We are talking billions of holograms...small ones that are very technical. Part of his success is that he really cares about image quality. He created The Holographic Art Grant to give artists the resources to make their best artwork and to put holograms within the reach of people who appreciate the art.

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HoloCenter ON CANAL is part of the “district for new ideas” program which is operated by Wallplay and co-curated by Vibes Studios.

The show runs from May 2 to May 26, 2019.

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