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Autodidact Chat: Andrew Reach Interviews Max Eternity (part 2)

In Art, Feature, Interview on December 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

“Start Stop #5b”


Okay, so we’re back.  Hello again, I’m Andrew Reach, artist and architect, and I”m here continuing my conversation with Max Eternity, founder of Art Digital Magazine.

In “part 1” of our interview Max and I talked about his childhood–how he found his way into becoming an artist, and what it has been like for him being an autodidact polymath in an age of specialization.  We also discussed some of the issues surrounding commercial gallery protocols and the importance of advocacy and education.

As the dialog continues we’ll take a look at some of his architectural renderings, also addressing what he calls “The Afro-Euro Fine Art Construct.”  And of course, we’ll talk a bit more about art theory and the future of digital technologies.

“Start Stop #5a”



Autodidact Chat:

Artist-Architect Andrew Reach Interviews

Polymath Max Eternity (pt 2)

by Andrew Reach


AR: I’ve been looking at your architectural compositions that you’ve shared with me–created using Google Sketch-up. I’d like to ask you about them, because I find the pieces rather intriguing. Your composition “Lean” has a narrow rectangular base topped by a Cubic form that aligns flush on the short sides of the rectangular base. On the long sides of the rectangular base it cantilevers on one side and leans out on the other. The volumes are fenestrated with bars, dots, stripes and concentric boxes. Each elevation has a different pattern. Is this a building? Is it sculpture? Or are you blurring the lines?

“Lean” (architectural illustration #6)

ME:  That’s a great description, really pointing out the essence of the building’s sculptural elements.  It’s observant of you, and thank you for those kind and generous words about the piece.

Answering your question, this illustration is a sculptural rendering of a building.

In its present form, it’s an illustration, 2’D visual art, though it’s also the blueprint for a sculpture and a CAD rendering for a building.

Now in regards to how the piece was made, I must say even though Google Sketch-up is not the best architectural program for rendering photo-realistic imagery, it is the best for creating architectural designs in an intuitive manner.

Of course, like a tube or can of paint, the software and computer don’t do the work.  The technique and talent comes from the mind of the artist-creator.  However, just like a good paint brush and quality canvas make for a better portrait, user-friendly software does the same.

“Lean” (architectural illustration #1)

AR: Let’s continue that line of thought about the function of technology.  Could you tell us how you use digital technology to advocate for social justice?

ME:  For a freelance article I’m working on, I provide a quote by Nelson Mandela, where he says

“In the twenty-first century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right. Eliminating the distinction between the information-rich and information-poor is also critical to eliminating economic and other inequalities between North and South, and to improve the life of all humanity.”

It’s a very powerful statement that Mandela made.  And in response I coined the term “Electronic Apartheid” as a simple way to describe what I’ve witnessed in recent years.  This is to say, a shift in the way basic services are being purveyed is currently under way.  In so far that what used to require no computer or typing skills, now require both, as many basic services are now provided and applied for online.  So the simple task of filling out applications for jobs or doing research for school means being able to afford the hardware and software required to do these things.

There is abundant data that shows great disparities of wealth between Blacks and Whites, so it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that Blacks are disproportionately being affected by digital literacy and associated access therein.

That said, a solution that I’ve put forth where I live, Atlanta, is a digital arts program for underprivileged children.  It’s been a long process, yet I’ve had the good fortune to meet Mayor Shirley Franklin, and she has directed—after 5 years of my advocacy—the Office of Cultural Affairs to implement a pilot program based on my syllabus.

“Step Aside #1”

AR: African Americans have historically been relegated to the sidelines of art history. You shared a documentary with me about this called Colored Frames, highlighting brilliant artists from the civil war to the present and the road blocks and prejudices they have had to endure. And the disparity still exists in 2010.

The disparity of black “Superstars” in the art world between Blacks and Whites is beyond obvious. There was Jean-Michel Basquiat, and currently Kehinde Wiley has received some critical acclaim. There are a few more I can name, but the point is, there are way too few black talents getting into the galleries.

What are your thoughts on this?

ME:  I am not a sociologist, just an experienced observer, which is to say that I do not have all the answers as to why this has occurred.  The easy answer is to say it’s racism.  But in today’s terms, what does that mean beyond being called the “N” word?  Consequentially, I would say to anyone wishing to learn about this particular dynamic, that they take the time to watch the Colored Frames documentary, because in my opinion, this film really seems to have captured the essence of these types of occurrences–this painfully biased legacy.

In addition to this, if one is interested in learning more about the Afro-Euro fine art construct–the role African art played in the founding of European Modernism, I would recommend reading the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Helibrunn Timeline,  the section written by Denise Murell.

“Step Aside #6”

AR: You mentioned earlier how Marcel Breuer’s Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library captured your imagination as a child. You are among those on the front lines on a long fought fight for its preservation. To this, you mention on ADMAG that you are an autodidact. Did you frequent this library as a child to teach yourself things you couldn’t learn in school? And what was it about this building that struck your imagination?  Also,  could you give us an update of the status of its preservation?

The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library (Google screen capture)

ME:  Well, I wasn’t exactly a child in the literally sense.  I was a teenager about 15 or 16 when I first saw the building from the outside.

Words cannot describe…the building is epic in every way.   And after an intense couple of years of advocacy, I’m happy to say that my 17-paged nomination to the World Monuments Fund was well received, resulting in the building being added to the 2010 World Monuments Fund WATCH List.  At just 29 years old, it’s the youngest of all the nearly 100 sites, one dating back 2 million years, to be added on that registry.

Breuer completed the site in 1980, when I was 14 and just starting high school.  He died a year later, and a year after that I got my drivers license and starting hanging out in the city.  However, it wasn’t until I had rented the basement of a warehouse on Trinity Avenue, a few blocks away from the building, that I actually went inside and starting reading the books—people watching—learning about the formalities of art and design.

Now about being an autodidact, that simply means being self-taught to a certain level of proficiency—basically having the equivalent of a college degree(s) without actually having gotten a degree(s).

For me, it’s been the best way to learn, because formal education never worked well in my favor.  I mean, I was always put in classes with the smart kids and I was tested with an exceptionally high IQ, yet I almost flunked out of high school, even though I loved learning.

That’s why I ended up teaching myself.  I love learning.

After high school I did attend college for about a year or so, but as strange as this may sound, I felt that college was getting in the way of my education.  It slowed me down.

“Black White Red #2c”

AR: Digital prints are changing the perception of what it means for a work of art to be called a fine art print, as it were. On a completely pragmatic level, you have recognized that we are in a period of the “wild west” when it comes to digital art.

There’s all this art being created in a way never done before in history, there’s the question of what will happen to these works of art making sure their physical integrity and monetary value is maintained for future generations to enjoy? What to do with all the digital data which is invisible to the viewer in the final ‘hard copy’ but nevertheless intrinsic to its creation and an important part of the prints provenance?

ME:  Indeed, these questions must be answered, although many good practices are already in place.  Structural organization does exist for those who want it, and yet as with all things, new information is constantly emerging.

“Black White Red #16”

AR:  You have tackled these and many other issues in a paper you wrote entitled Collecting Digital Prints and most recently you wrote a great piece for Artworks Magazine titled The Digital Dilemma.

This I would have to say, is digital missionary work.

How did you get the calling and could you give us a little more detail for everyone else what you lay out in these writings?

ME:  I love that term, “digital missionary”, and it certainly feels like that’s what I’ve been doing.

But ultimately, the best way to understand these writings is to read them.  ArtWorks Magazine is available at Barnes and Noble bookstores and most all of my other papers are available online to download for free.  Anyone can Google my name and these links will pop up all over the place.

Though to answer your question about how my excursions in prose came about.  Basically, it was a situation where I had been collecting notes and other forms of documentation since first discovering the Breuer Library some 25 years ago.  I had been a traditional artist even in elementary school, middle school and high school.  I was also into performing arts, in addition to my drawing, sculpting and painting.

By 1995 I had done my first digital painting and print.

I didn’t think I was an “expert” of anything until others started telling me how much I had taught them.  Then this all came to a head when I met Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco, subsequently meeting artist adviser—Richard Weedman—when I returned back to Atlanta.  It was Richard, who essentially instructed me to start writing formally, so as to prepare myself for publication.

The rest is history, as they say.

“Into Forever #4”

AR: You are also an inventor, having shared one of your inventions with me. I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement not to discuss any details of it, yet without giving away anything, I think I can safely say it is a product that utilizes digital technology in a very utilitarian way. Is the inventor side of you an outgrowth of your studies of the Bauhaus and modernism or were you always an inventive mind?

ME:  Design is the key.  Thinking in design and living a life that is design based, means incorporating visual beauty and technical finesse seamlessly.  Of course none of this comes with first attempts, but with practice and discipline, cultivating inventiveness can and will become second nature.

The Bauhaus has no exclusive claims to this experience.  That said, they did employ the concept exceptionally well.

AR: I understand December 2009 marks the YEAR ONE Anniversary of AD Mag. How did it begin, how do you find the artists you feature and what future plans do you have for it?

ME:  I began thinking of the concept that would become Art Digital Magazine about 4 or 5 years ago.  Initially I envisioned it to be a print publication on traditional paper, sold in major bookstores.  I never really turned away from that idea, though what did happen, is that I started to discover all these wonderful publications that were published exclusively online.

A light bulb went off, and I decided…hey, why not.

That was exactly one year ago and would you believe that the magazine has received over 12,000 hits in its first year with absolutely no advertising?  I mean, that really speaks to the hunger there is when it comes to a greater understanding of digital media and fine art.

As far as discovering new artist, I talk a lot and I know a lot of people, so that kinda makes it easy.

AD Mag book cover design (currently in production)

AR: When you first contacted me earlier this year to do a feature about me and my work in AD Mag I must say it was exciting to have been contacted out of the blue. I realized the reason I was so excited was not only being recognized for my work but also that this was an example of potential of the digital times we live in. I have a much easier ability to get my art out into the public realm now than in any time in history.

Do you think the internet is having a democratizing effect on art as people would argue it has for music and if so how does ADMAG fit into the picture?

ME: That’s a good question.  And particularly in your case when one observes an architect who’s also a digital painter, it tends to beg the question of what possibilities lie ahead.  Combing this then with the fact that you also have a disability that keeps you housebound, and yet you live this robust life with an active, successful career, and the evidence really becomes telling as to how many boundaries no longer exists.

If one can afford access, the internet is definitely a democratizing tool, provided you don’t live in China where there’s heavy censorship.

And as far as AD Mag is concerned, with an international roster of artist having been interviewed in the first year, including college professors and others scholars, I think it’s fair to say that AD Mag has a central role to play looking ahead.

AR: When you look back at the past year and all the artists you featured on ADMAG, it’s amazing to see the diversity of work, ideas, methods, software… and you begin to realize that the potential possibilities of the medium is broader than perhaps any other art form in history. There are digital technologies I’m sure that haven’t even been invented yet that will change things even further. Is this because the engineer element of TADAE factored in opens up so much potential?

ME:  It’s that, yes.  Yet more importantly, I would say that it’s a courageous curiosity that compels one down the road of the unknown.

“Colors #4”

AR: What place to you see digital art playing in the history of art in the 21st century?

ME:  Whoops, I just dropped my crystal ball.  Humm, so I don’t have an answer for that.  Thus I suppose, we will have to just wait and see.

AR:  That seems to be the way it works.

ME: Yep

AR: Well Max, I’ve totally enjoyed this conversation.   Good luck to you and the magazine.

ME:  Thanks, and Happy New Year!

AR: And a Happy New Year to you too!


About Andrew Reach:

Andrew Reach, architect-artist (b.1961), spent his formative years in Miami. From an early age he had an appreciation of art, graphic design and architecture and enjoyed drawing and sketching as well.  Decades later, Andrew’s work has been exhibited in solo and international juried exhibitions in Miami, New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

On his way to becoming an architect, Reach studied at New York’s Pratt School of Art & Design.  And at various points in his architectural career, he worked with such notables as Yann Weymouth and Harold Zellman.

Reach was the Project Manager, who oversaw the building of the Frost Museum in Miami, also having been deeply involved in the restoration of a couple of houses by Lloyd Wright; son to Frank Lloyd Wright.  Reach was also directly responsible for the preservation of Wright’s Warwick Evans House and  the  Jascha Heitz studio, both located in Los Angeles.

Andrew and life companion, Bruce, now reside in Cleveland Ohio.




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