Jimmy Edgar's 'OXYGEN' Will Take Your Breath Away

Jimmy Edgar's 'OXYGEN' Will Take Your Breath Away

by Kenna McCafferty

Multi-modal talent Jimmy Edgar is no stranger to paradox, having long explored the irony of art.

You may know him best from sculpting sounds as a DJ, musician and frequent SOPHIE collaborator, but Edgar has explored digital production at large throughout his career. Stretching the proverbial fabric between virtual and physical spaces even further, Edgar’s first solo exhibition, OXYGEN, opens in LA’s digital gallery, Vellum through September 11.

Consisting of 13 new works, OXYGEN puts the everyday, vital fixtures of life through a process of simulated sublimation — evaporating objects from their physical contexts and re-issuing them through immaterial means. He's coined this metaphysical process, "Digital Condensation."

OXYGEN captures and distills life, as if within an oxygen tank — sucking the air from the room while drawing attention to the sensation of viewers' breath as it moves through their body. In creating the collection, Edgar asked himself, "What does oxygen desire? If I were oxygen, how would I want to portray myself?"OXYGEN is the artist's response.

At the center of the exhibition is its title piece, Edgar’s sculpture made entirely of air. With the tongue-in-cheek humor of a pop art provocateur, Edgars encourages viewers to embrace the physicality of invisibility. Of course, the best things in life are intangible and come at a price: the sculpture went to auction with a starting price of $25,000.

Despite its heady concept, Edgars maintains a pulse on the personal to juxtapose the vacuum through which OXYGEN is presented. In each digital work, there is a physical process that warrants its creation and illustrates the ways we naturally enact iterative processes in everyday life. OXYGEN asphyxiates, and in the small moment before suffocation, gives viewers a breath of fresh air.

If OXYGEN examines art in the absence of space, what role does the physical space of the Vellum Gallery play?

I love to explore the immaterial in the digital domain, so it was super exciting to now be able to present these works on the best quality displays. I think a lot about the way digital work is displayed. It's fascinating to me that digital creations are playing with this intangibility factor. It's digital, yet it's actually a physical process through and through. Not only that, but every time you view a digital work you are viewing an illusion in some way — a projection of this data that has totally different attributes than a physical artwork. For OXYGEN, I created the work based on the displays and the physical space, and Vellum is a really impressive gallery with one panoramic screen over 50 feet wide.

You mention Jeff Koons' Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank. How do you build upon the pop art project to breathe life and aesthetics into everyday objects?

OXYLITH is a piece in reference to pop art. I suppose you could think about what it means to have “balance” in the digital world. The beach ball has also been a motif in other artworks I’ve enjoyed. The ones I have used are textured and re-colored to feel aligned with the visual aesthetic that I work with. In essence, the beachball breathes some fun and positively charged vibes into the show because we think about sunshine, youth, fun and stuff like this.

What is the importance of the viewer in bringing this work to life? How do you want them to feel and engage with the exhibition?

We are presenting my first physical sculpture in a digital gallery. It’s titled OXYGEN, and it's air encased in glass with an NFT serving as a certificate for authenticity. It's fascinating for me to consider this as a sculpture of an installation in a way, as thinking about the air inside as a creation, having contained it. I also love the idea of presenting this in a digital environment. It's not an immaterial work either, I consider this my first physical work.

OXIDIZE is presented as an upright HD screen alternating two white frames. I think it references a lot of different things: inhale/exhale, life/death, the contrast of life and also fluctuations of energy. The aesthetic is akin to a strobe light, which feels like an appropriate aesthetic having performed music in dance clubs all over the world. The OXIDIZE is about creating a reaction and aligned with the OXYGEN theme.

How did this exhibition come together?

The idea came to me as the word, "Oxygen." So I asked myself, "What does oxygen desire? If I were oxygen, how would I want to portray myself?" I want to be consumed. I want to be respected as invisible to humans, but being so vital to life. I thought a lot about the immateriality of it and assumed a lot of things about oxygen. I would love if viewers were to find a love for the element.

How does your visual art inform your music and vice versa?

I see them as one in the same. Every medium is sculpting to me. Music is sculpting with air pressure. Painting is sculpting with color. Writing is sculpting with words. I love the idea of sculpting because it's the process of using the mind and body together to form, and it's a super challenging thing to play with the feedback of how we feel and interact with that. This is why I love to consider immateriality because music is somewhat invisible. But also, sculpting yourself into a better person is also a process of immaterial movement. I also love plastic surgery for this reason, it's like the highest form of sculpture.

What are some things in your everyday life that you consider art, that might not be looked at as art by others?

I love to see everything as art. I love to ask people what they think is not art, because I think everything is art. My aesthetic leans towards newness and products, so whenever I am inside a store I look at products and give them titles as if I created them. When I dropped OBSOLETE, the hermetically sealed Dyson vacuum cleaner, it was all types of reactions from it. Now every time I see a Dyson Vacuum cleaner, I think to myself, "I made that," [laughs] because in a way I was able to transform it, so I personally feel I created them in some capacity — in some newness sense.

Photos courtesy of Jimmy Edgar