Linguistic structures: Eisenberg shapes his words

Jeff Eisenberg, "A Journey to the General's Map, Reverse Engineered."

Every artist has a method. Before showing up at the canvas or page, he or she first goes through an individualized process to generate ideas and prepare for the work ahead. Take, for example, Jeff Eisenberg, whose exhibition, “Internal Logic,” is currently on view at Second Street Gallery.

Eisenberg begins his projects with stream-of-consciousness writing, riffing on words and their associations until he has what her terms, “a book of information.” He then searches for images that reflect his words, picking out shapes and lines to create computer-generated visuals, which he hand-draws in graphite and colored pencil on paper and translucent Mylar overlays.

The results are futuristic landscapes, with defined horizons, where structures soar or float in mid-air. In Eisenberg’s conjunctions of utopia and dystopia, it’s often hard to distinguish whether scenes are mid- construction or mid-destruction. Frequently, there is an unfinished aspect, which gives the works the feeling of schematics lifted from the drafting table of some post-apocalyptic architect.

Eisenberg’s palette choices also seem otherworldly. His drawings contain neon-bright elements (with a predilection for cadmium yellow, safety orange, and hot pink) in surprising combinations with muted tones like grey, mauve, olive green, and brown. The juxtaposition seems odd yet appropriate in his fractured worlds.

Using Mylar, Eisenberg creates the illusion of dimension and spatial relationships  between elements. For instance, in “The Everlasting Gobstopper Reverse Engineered,” arches begin on the top layer and continue on lower sheets, giving the impression that the shapes are physically receding in space. The translucence of the medium also imbues shadows and objects in the distance with convincing diffuse edges.

Particularly striking is the way Eisenberg contrasts his precise re-creation of digitally generated lines with evidence of his human hand. The strokes of his colored-pencil shading remind the viewer of the artist’s presence.

In addition to the exhibition’s eight drawings, Eisenberg has also installed a kiosk with a CD player, headphones, and CD-sized booklets of “bad high school poetry,” that promises visitors an “Audio Tour.” But rather than a description of the works on display, the viewer hears modulated human-made sounds inspired by other drawings Eisenberg previously made. And in a strange circular sequence, these sound pieces are, in fact, the sources for several works that are included in “Internal Logic.”

Eisenberg’s method is undeniably complex. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, in Eisenberg’s case, a thousand words– and sounds– are worth a picture.

Jeff Eisenberg’s exhibition, “Internal Logic,” is on view in the Dov© Gallery at Second Street Gallery through November 1. 115 Second St. SE (in the Charlottesville City Center for the Arts). 977-7284.