Erasing the radioactive flood
What’s a story without its characters? Local visual artist Brad Necyk pondered this question while digitally removing characters from various stills of TV shows and movies for his exhibit Just a Hard Rain.
Necyk’s presentation features various manipulated portraits and landscapes from television shows and films like Hannibal, True Detective, A Clockwork Orange, and more. Each portrait depicts the effort to eliminate a character, leaving chaotic imprints of missing body parts and disfigured clones.
“I was thinking a lot about erasing people from films and what a film would look like without people in it,” Necyk says. “Once I tried to delete these people, I would come up with these explosions of people. They just started to disintegrate.”
The exhibition’s title comes from a Bob Dylan quote from a 1963 Chicago radio interview with DJ persona Studs Terkel. Terkel asked Dylan if his song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” was about nuclear fallout. Dylan responded that the context of song was not about atomic rain, but “just a hard rain.”
“That line stuck out so much to me,” Necyk says. “We have this simple thing like rain that overflows your gutters and just erodes and pours down.”
The name fits the work. Each of the pieces actually look like a hard rain drenched the image, but this unique rendering doesn’t actually come from the outside environment, it comes from the digital one.
Necyk’s chooses a selection of different stills from film or TV subjects and essentially stacks them on top of each other in Photoshop. He then finds the brightest points of the image and multiplies them.
Photoshop becomes confused and leaves these erupting images of amplified flesh. Once he adjusts the image and is satisfied, Necyk prints them on a sheet of aluminum.
“It’s meant to be seamless, but if you give [Photoshop] something that it doesn’t expect, like multiplied stills, it sort of breaks,” Necyk says.
Many of the distorted images come from NBC’s now-cancelled Hannibal series—a show that was visually and psychologically stunning to Necyk.
“I’ve mined as much of Hannibal as possible,” he says. “I went through every single episode from the three seasons and went through thousands of stills.”
Even though Necyk has an entire exhibition of images, this process of visual elimination has not left him. In fact, he makes a new image every day.
“It’s an activity that I just do daily, almost like a drawing practice,” Necyk explains. “As an artist, you need to have a daily practice that keeps you creatively functional. I learn new techniques and now I usually know what the image will look like.”
While pursuing a PhD in psychiatry, Necyk used the ‘hard rain’ style while working with psychiatric patients in Toronto.
“It’s kind of like the co-creating process—I let them direct me however they want,” he explains. “Then we have these photo-viewing sessions where I use the same technique that I did with the TV shows.”
His initial idea to erase people from portraits began after his daughter Ellie was born in 2013. Necyk became intensely aware of current events, attending lectures and listening to philosophers talk about the world’s fate.
“It started off with me thinking about these decaying spaces that have been left behind, but it springboarded into the current exhibition of these weird truncated people.”
Many academics say we are in the technological age, and it’s easy to agree due to new forms or advancements in technology appearing almost every day.
Necyk calls these advancements “radioactive moments.”
“For blues musicians, it was all about that ride on dissonance, but that doesn’t feel like my time,” Necyk says. “It’s a fever and this web of constant active activity—and I’m trying to, sort of, erase it.”
Until Sat., June 3
Just a Hard Rain
Scott Gallery, free