Jennifer Steinkamp is an American installation artist who works with video and new media in order to explore ideas about architectural space, motion, and perception.
Rock Formation by Jennifer Steinkamp, Denver Art Museum, Colorado. Born in Denver, Colorado, Steinkamp is the eldest of five children, three girls and two boys. Her family lived in a number of areas before settling in Edina, Minnesota. In 1979, Steinkamp moved to Los Angeles to attend the California Institute of the Arts, studying experimental animation. She later went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, studying with Mike Kelley, Gene Youngblood, and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe. In 1989, Steinkamp returned to Art Center, completing her MFA in Fine Arts in 1991.She is currently a professor in the department of Design | Media Arts at UCLA.
Steinkamp uses digital projection to transform architectural space, providing the viewer with a synaesthetic experience, often working in collaboration with musicians Andrew Bucksbarg and Jimmy Johnson to integrate sound into her work. While her career began with brightly colored abstract projections, since 2003 she has increasingly incorporated nature-based imagery into her work — gnarled trees that twist, turn, and change seasons; rooms filled with undulating strands of flowers. In doing so she has brought digital art into the mainstream of contemporary art. Her use of vernacular imagery and embrace of beauty result in mesmerizing environments that reference the sublime, as did the Hudson River School painters. Like her art historical precedents, Steinkamp conveys the magnitude and power of nature—a nature that is not always benign. Premature, a series first displayed in 2010, shifts the focus of Steinkamp’s subject to life and death. She explores this topic with projections of slithering veins and arteries that evoke the eerie inspiration of her work. Her work has the power to communicate to a broader public, to “convert” a more traditional art audience, familiar with the use of computer graphics for video games but unaware of other creative applications.
Steinkamp has exhibited her work internationally in a variety of venues and contexts, but her work is still difficult to categorize. She is often described as a video artist although her work is not photo or video-based; her recent inclusion in the California Video exhibition at the Getty Museum suggests that her connection to the genre is unlikely to change. Interestingly, the media art world has never embraced Steinkamp as one of their own, since her work is not technically interactive and she uses the computer not as a tool to comment on technology, but rather one to create imagery.
In 2008, Steinkamp was selected as the United States representative in the 11th International Cairo Biennale. For Valentino’s 2010 Spring/Summer couture show featured projections of Steinkamp’s trees against the walls of the runway. In 2011 Jennifer Steinkamp will exhibit in Prospect. 2 New Orleans, the second biennial of Prospect New Orleans curated by Dan Cameron.
Her work is in the permanent public collections of: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Denver Art Museum; The San Jose Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; Staples Center; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; The Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas; The Experience Music Project, Seattle; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC; The W5 Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Florida; MUSAC, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Leon, Spain; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; Progressive Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas; Martin Margulies Collection, Coconut Grove, Florida; Autostadt Collection, Wolfsburg, Germany; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; Towada Center, Towada, Japan; Western Bridge, Seattle, Washington; Victory Park, Dallas Texas; CAC Museum of Malaga, Malaga, Spain; Vero Beach Museum of Art, Vero Beach, Florida; The West Collection, Pennsylvania; Weatherspoon Art Museum, North Carolina; and the 21c Museum, Louisville, Kentucky.
Steinkamp is represented by ACME in Los Angeles, greengrassi in London and Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York.