Artist inspired by iPads and computers

By Sarah Simkin

There are provocative art exhibit titles, there are descriptively accurate titles, and then there’s “Straight Outta CompUSA” — playfully capturing all the connotations of media theft, appropriation and technology. Straight Outta CompUSA

SPACE Gallery

Free to the public

812 Liberty Ave.

Through May 1

Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There are provocative art exhibit titles, there are descriptively accurate titles, and then there’s “Straight Outta CompUSA” — playfully capturing all the connotations of media theft, appropriation and technology.

“The title isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, and there isn’t any judgment being made against either NWA [The hip-hop group that released the album Straight Outta Compton] or CompUSA [the electronics retailer]. It’s just a funny title that goes some distance in uniting the different types of work that appear in the show and one that also gives viewers some idea of what to expect before they enter the gallery,” artist Jesse Hulcher said.

So what should a visitor expect? The outcome of a chess battle between a Macintosh computer and a Microsoft computer, “War and Peace” abridged to 1 percent of its original length and printed at Kinko’s, Hulcher’s deceased father’s e-mail account and much more.

The exhibit explores what Hulcher described as “the ways in which our creativity is predetermined and restricted by the type of electronics that we buy or the brand of computer we prefer.”

A number of the pieces in the show represent stock creative ideas and templates in the context of the art gallery as a comment on this concept. One such meta-video involved importing footage of the film “Jurassic Park” into one of Apple’s iMovie templates — a template modeled after “Jurassic Park” itself.

Hulcher said that choosing which instruments to work with presented some challenges. “I have to make sure that I’m using a gadget because it makes the right cultural metaphor and not because it appeals to me and my own interest in having some new, expensive piece of garbage,” he said.

Jonathan Chamberlain, a preparator for Wood Street galleries who assisted in installing Hulcher’s artwork, said that the installation process was similar to others, involving purchasing materials the artist asked for and crafting and setting it up to his specifications.

Hulcher said that there were some logistical challenges in getting all the computers and technical tools to serve their purpose in displaying the artwork, such as the iPad displaying “Drive It Like You Stole It,” a novel Hulcher wrote as part of the November National Novel Writing Month project, in which participants write a 50,000-word novel in a month.

Choosing which brands to represent was another challenge. “I don’t want to create commercials for Apple,” Hulcher said. “I’d rather work with whatever technology is most appropriate at the time. But every device brings its own context into the gallery. It’s sometimes hard to live that down.”

Some of Hulcher’s pieces are exhibited on Hulcher’s website,, but they can be witnessed in person until May 1 at the SPACE Gallery at 812 Liberty Ave.

Hulcher was invited to put the exhibit together after participating in a group show at SPACE and a solo show at another Downtown gallery.

Curatorial assistant for the Wood Street Galleries, Rachel Tokarski said  “Jesse Hulcher worked at the gallery for three years, and over time he came up with the idea of a solo show. The quality of the work justified that he should have that,” .

In addition to the talent, Tokarski also thinks that the theme will appeal to the many tech-savvy students in the area.

“Hulcher seems to generate a younger audience with the technological-related art, and I think that’s great considering all of the colleges and universities in the Pittsburgh area,” she said.

And many of these students have witnessed one of the phenomena that inspired Hulcher for his piece. He described being perplexed with the superficial nature of Facebook “friendships” and their nominal relationship to people’s behavior IRL — in real life — as one of the motivations behind his art.

“I don’t really understand this behavior or this technology. My online relationship with my deceased father is about as exciting and fast-paced as the online relationships that I have with people who have recently friended me on Facebook. Technology is weird,” he said.