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Exclusive Interview with Artist Irby Pace: Form, Time, and Stranger Things

You walk into a gallery and see 3D glasses, a faux floating cloud, and a stereo card viewer complete with a stack of cards that beg to be touched. It's not just an exhibition; it's an experience. It's not just landscape photography; it's Irby Pace. Seemingly innocuous spaces are transformed by vibrant bursts of smoke, creating surreal photographs which defy time. Years of experimentation with balloons and chemicals to create the rainbow smoke manifest in Pace's latest exhibition, Forms of Continuity in Time, at Galleri Urbane in Dallas. Large-scale photographs are mixed with retro throwbacks of various image-viewing methods; the stereo cards, the moving lenticular print, the original paper red-and-blue 3D glasses. If it wasn't for your phone already snapping photos of the exhibition, it would almost seem as though you had traveled back in time. Pace carefully selected these particular methods to interact with the viewer just as his smoke bombs interact with the environment - instantaneous yet memorable. While Pace will be employing the use of more modern technologies, such as AR, in future projects, this presentation was a welcome bridge to the past, the nostalgic feeling of fond childhood memories combined with modern technology behind the scenes. Pace is already a celebrated artist for countless projects, and we look forward to following further development of these ideas. We had the pleasure to meet him at the gallery for an exclusive interview, take a look inside his process below!

How did you get interested in photography?

I started to take an interest in the medium when I took my first introduction photography course in college. The darkroom and image making is the closest thing to actual true magic that I had ever experienced at that point in my life. I was immediately hooked on it and I became increasingly more involved in the medium and the techniques surrounding it.

When did you begin exploring the capture of colored smoke bombs in environments?

I started to work on the idea while I was in graduate school but the idea suffered from multiple failed attempts. After graduate school I began to devote my artistic endeavors towards making the work.

How long did the process take to perfect?

When I started to delve into the development of the work it took months to get the first viable image, but I would say that I’m always still trying to perfect the work with each approach.

Were you working with nature or against it to create these images? Smoke is not known to stand still for long in inclement weather or an unexpected gust of wind.

Typically it is a push and pull with nature and I have to wait for the most optimal weather conditions to make sure that the smoke plumes correctly. I have been out photographing and if weather unexpectedly shifts I will loose all of the work that I started. I consider the work to be an unspoken collaboration with nature in which Mother Nature is unaware of its participation.

Your new exhibition, Temporary Forms of Continuity In Spaces, expands on your trademark style, how did your work evolve through the process of creating these images?

I took a break before completing this section of work within the series to test and experiment with new and older technologies. I knew that I wanted the audience to be invited to look at the work in new ways and to interact with the work within the exhibition space. This led me to trying newer printing techniques such as moving lenticular prints, which were inspired by my childhood comic book cards collection.

This exhibition is incredibly interactive, truly allowing the viewer to craft their own unique experience. How did the idea for the 3D work and the interactive slides come about?

The stereo cards are a turn of the century technology that allowed people of the time to view different landscape or spaces in 3-Dimensions when viewed with a stereo card viewer. These were mass-produced and a large social construct that allowed people to be “wowed” by contemporary technology of the time. They can be seen as a predecessor to the modern day virtual reality goggles that are becoming just as widely distributed.

You worked extensively with chemistry and technology to create the images, but the interactive portions of your exhibition are a throwback to the physical experience instead of a technological one. Why did you choose to feature the slides and 3D glasses as opposed to AR?

I really wanted to do a throwback to the older technologies to show that they are a viable option for interaction and wonderment. However, I think that Augmented Reality (AR) would be a great way to continue to explore this work and it is something that I am currently working on.

Do you have any ideas to further the interactive experience in the future?

Besides AR technology I am also working on making hologram-based installations, more sculptures, and some video based work.

How have your experiences influenced your work?

The experiences in my life and art have influenced me to explore different ideas in other types of media to still convey the same ideas with my work. I grew up in a time where I knew of the world before and after the establishment of the Internet. I think that this will always come through in some way in my work, the classic technologies pared with modern digital components.

What are some of your other inspirations in different forms of media?

I am gleefully delighted by the influx of media taking place in the 80’s. The time period is a mix of “retro-futurism” that when compared to modern reality will always seem like this foreign unknown existence. Television shows such as “Stranger Things” and others remind me of my childhood and influence me to incorporate the visual landscape of the time into my current work.

Is there anything viewers should keep in mind while they view the exhibition?

I want the viewers to know that they are invited to interact and to play with the artwork. Hopefully the interactions are fun and engaging while also inspiring and educational.

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All images provided by Irby Pace.

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