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Spatial light modulators (SLMs) are recently emerging as wavefront generation or reconstruction devices. In this paper, we use a liquid-crystal SLM (LC-SLM) as a wavefront generation device through the modulation of the spatial phase distribution of an incident light beam. We characterize the phase modulation performance of the LC-SLM, and identified a polarization-configuration to minimize its amplitude modulation effects in order to maximize the contrast of reconstructed phase holograms. We also investigated the feasibility of determining the optical surface uniformity of the LC-SLM through computations of the interference fringes, and identified the disadvantages of this method. This new approach may be used to determine the optical surface quality of other optical devices.