3D Printing, 3D Capture, and Opportunities for Design Custodians

Venus de Milo 3D capture by Cosmo Wenman (blue_medium)

In early 2014, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opened its new Art + Technology Lab, and invited me to give its very first presentation. My talk was to a diverse cross section of 50 or so LACMA staff members and was on the topic of 3D printing, 3D capture, and opportunities for museums to use these new technologies to bring art to a wider audience.

I’ve published an online adaptation of my presentation here: 3D Printing, 3D Capture, and Opportunities for Design Custodians

 

 

 

Rejected LACMA Art + Technology Lab Grant Application

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In early 2014, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opened its new Art + Technology Lab, and invited me to give its very first presentation. My talk was to a diverse cross-section of 50 LACMA staff members and was on the topic of 3D printing, 3D scanning, and opportunities for museums to use these new technologies to bring art to wider audiences.

The Lab has also recently revived LACMA’s Art + Technology grant program, which from 1967 to 1971 funded projects by artists such as Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. The grant program’s goal is “to help artists take purposeful risks in order to explore new boundaries in both art and science” by supporting projects that, as LACMA puts it, “address issues at the intersection of culture and technology, provide opportunities for public engagement, and produce data, methods of models that might be of interest to other artists and technology developers.”

A few days prior to my presentation, I submitted a grant application for my project, The Archetypes Burst In, which would have put the concepts in my presentation into action. It would have, in my opinion, put LACMA on the bleeding edge of art digitization and publishing–as well patronage of 3D digitization of the arts–and would have had important, long-lasting effects.

My proposal was rejected along with around 450 others’. You can read about the five winning proposals here.

My proposal, submitted January 27, 2014:

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Life-size 3D Printed Portrait

My client asked for a life-sized 3D printed portrait of a colleague. Because the portrait was to be a surprise gift, there was no opportunity to scan the subject. The piece had to be modeled from photos of him culled from the web.

I proposed a bust, roughly from the shoulders up, with classical allusions, but I was vague about the details beyond that. The final design references the Artemision Bronze, Leighton’s An Athlete Wrestling with a Python and a few other sources.

I took a risk and bet that they’d like something other than a standard chairman-of-the-board type treatment. And what’s the point of having rock & roll hair if you aren’t going to do the whole heroic barbarian-warrior-champion-god thing when you have your life-size 3D printed portrait done?

This is the result.

It’s plastic, with a patinated bronze finish.

This kind of remixing is just one small reason the world’s back catalog of public domain sculptural artwork should be digitized and published, freely, and without restriction. (More on that front soon…)

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The Archetypes Burst In, Illustrated (2/10/2014)

LACMA - The_Archetypes_Burst_In_Cosmo_Wenman3D Prints by Cosmo Wenman at the LACMA Art + Technology Lab

LACMA hired me to give their new Art + Technology Lab its very first presentation, on February 3, 2014. It was a private presentation to approximately fifty of LACMA’s staff, including curators, asset managers, and fundraisers, though at my request they allowed me to invite a journalist.

My talk was billed as a “3D Printing Demo,” but I went for more.

The arrangement above was intended as a still-life depicting plenitude–abundance and variety. It’s what I set up to illustrate some of my thoughts on 3D printing, 3D capture, and new opportunities for museums in their role as custodians of design.

Below is a sped up compilation of a few videos I used in my talk (minus the ominous music). It features photos of others’ prints of some of my 3D captures.

There were a few raised eyebrows when it came to the topics of copyright and public domain, but it went well overall. Reactions ranged from positive and enthusiastic to–and I quote–“this is bullshit.” So I must be doing something right.

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Next Up: The Medusa Rondanini (12/28/2013)

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“[T]he mere knowledge that such a work could be created and still exists in the world makes me feel twice the person I was. I would say something about it if everything one could say about such a work were not a waste of breath. Works of art exist to be seen, not talked about, except, perhaps, in their presence. I am thoroughly ashamed of all the babbling about art in which I used to join. If I can get hold of a good cast of this Medusa, I shall bring it back with me…” — Goethe, Italian Journey

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Winged Victory Published (12/28/2013)

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“No classical education is needed to appreciate the personification, nor is it hard to grasp the drama of the figure’s action given its superb position–and this is so despite the absence of arms and head; indeed perhaps its maimed condition has helped make the life it retains seem more miraculous.” — Francis Haskell, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500-1900

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Venus de Milo Published (12/28/2013)

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“Supreme western works of art, like Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, preserve their indeterminacy through all interpretation. They are morally ungraspable. Even the Venus de Milo gained everything by losing her arms.” — Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

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Response to Original Venus de Milo vs. 3D Printed Copy (11/22/2013)

More noodling around with ideas and images for possible presentation at LACMA. This is a comparison of people’s response to the original Venus de Milo in the Louvre to their response to my 3D captured, 3D printed copy at the 2013 Paris 3D Printshow. The show was in the Louvre expo space, so my print was just a couple hundred feet away from the original.

I’m thinking that the fact that so many people are viewing the original through screens and taking photos undercuts the argument that there’s some essential, ineffable, supernatural awe involved in seeing the original, when really what people want is interaction, touch, control, and possession, all of which they get by mediating their experience with cell phones and cameras (for now, until they can have 3D prints).

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3D Print of Perikles’ Helmet at 2013 Paris 3D Printshow (11/22/2013)

I’m working on ideas and images for a possible upcoming presentation to LACMA staff on 3D printing, 3D scanning, art, and museums. Here are photos of people at last week’s 3D Printshow in Paris responding to my 3D printed invention of Perikles’ helmet — a copy of an artifact that hasn’t been discovered and likely does not exist. Photos and touching allowed…

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3D Printed/Bronze-Cast Matisse Bootleg at the Louvre (11/21/2013)

Because when’s the next time I’m going to be alone, after hours at the Louvre, with Vangelisesque muzak playing on the PA system, with my 3D captured, 3D printed bronze-cast bootleg of a Matisse? I found a buyer too…

From “3D Printed Lost PLA Bronze Casting and the Art of the Living Dead

(Why does YouTube suggest “Nightmare” as a tag for this video?)

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3D Scanning, 3D Printed Lost PLA Bronze Casting, and the Art of the Living Dead

(10/24/2013)

Broken PLA Mold grey bg by Cosmo WenmanOver the last year, I have been experimenting with combining 3D capture, 3D design, and 3D printing with traditional lost wax bronze casting techniques. I’d like to use these technologies to develop a reliable method for producing large-scale traditional, artisanal bronzes faster and less expensively than has ever been possible in bronze’s 5,000 year history.

Matisse Nude Back I in Bronze by Cosmo Wenman_close cropThe first metalworkers likely were potters who discovered pieces of ores refined into flecks of precious metals embedded in their fired clays. It was the first alchemy, refining and changing substances from one to another, creating bronze alloys, silver, and gold from raw earth. Metalworking eventually became entwined with chthonic cults. Chthonic: having to do with the subterranean, fertility, and deities of the underworld — Hephaestus, Hades, Persephone, and Demeter — and the interface between the living and the dead. It’s a strange word and concept that evokes both abundance and the grave, so it seems fitting that my own experiments with new, Promethean technologies that allow light to be refined into bronze are being influenced and constrained by modern rituals and mysticism surrounding death and the afterlife.

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Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle First Results (10/23/2013)

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I spent a week in the Skulpturhalle Basel plaster cast museum in late September. I got some great 3D captures and I’ll start publishing them soon, starting with Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. Thanks again to the Skulpturhalle for giving me access to their collection, and to Autodesk and its Reality Capture division for their financial support, without which I would not have been able to undertake this project.

The Skulpturhalle’s plaster cast of Venus de Milo was commissioned in 1850, and was likely made by the Louvre’s own atelier. It is a very high quality cast, and I was able to get a very nice 3D capture of it. You can see a low-res preview of the model here.

The Skulpturhalle’s plaster of Winged Victory of Samothrace was made in 1892, and is documented to have been made by the Louvre atelier under the direction of Eugène Arrondelle. It is also of very high quality, and I got a complete, high quality capture of it. Here’s a preview.

Pictured above are two 20″ tall 3D prints I am currently working on. They will make their public debut at the 3D Printshows in London and Paris next month, and I will be publishing the 3D files shortly thereafter.

The Paris show is in the Carrousel du Louvre expo space, right next to the Louvre, which means that my prints will be a few hundred feet from the originals. I can’t think of a better venue.

In an interesting wrinkle, the Louvre just recently removed Winged Victory from public view for the first time in 130 years, for a nine month restoration. So my 3D printed copy will be on display just a stone’s throw from the Louvre’s Daru staircase, where the original will be conspicuously absent. The Louvre is soliciting donations from the public to support the multimillion dollar restoration project, which will include making a 3D survey of the original. I’ll be publishing my 3D data so that anyone can 3D print a copy. Will the Louvre publish theirs?

Here are snapshots of just a few of the pieces that turned out very well. A bust of the Borghese Ares, a bust of Homer, and Athena Velletri.

I have several more like these, and better.

And while poking around in the Skulpturhalle’s storage cabinets, I stumbled on a piece that isn’t listed in their public catalog (which focuses on ancient Greek and Roman works). It’s an extremely high quality Italian plaster cast of a Renaissance treasure and work of political propaganda — an enigmatic Florentine icon of power and status. I captured it, but I need to work on it more and figure out the right way to present it. But it’s great.

Stay tuned.

— Cosmo

For more about my project, Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle click here.

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NPR Morning Edition, All Tech Considered:

3-D Printing A Masterwork For Your Living Room (10/11/2013)
Wenman hopes he’s leading the way to a future where 3-D prints of sculptures by greats like Rodin or Michelangelo are as common as posters of a Van Gogh.

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