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Bonny Lhotka’s Digital Alchemy

In Art, Feature, Interview, News on March 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

“Book Place” (phantogram)

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“Way back, when Walt Disney came out with the movies in theater…the first time I saw Tinkerbelle go up to the screen …I decided I wanted to do that” says Bonny Lhotka of one of the early experiences that inspired her as a child to grow up and become an artist.  Lhotka, who graduated in 1964 from Bradley University–having been schooled in printmaking and painting–did just that.  She became an artist, and has since gone on to exhibit her unique form of digital and mixed-media prints worldwide.

Lhotka’s art has been commissioned by and/or resides in the collection of several hundred patrons, including United Airlines, Lucent Technologies, Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab and The U.S. Department of State.

She is the winner of a Smithsonian/Computerworld Technology in the Arts Award, and in 1997 Lhotka organized Digital Atelier: A printmaking studio for the 21st Century at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, which included her being an artist-in-residence there for 21 days.

Lhotka has used her impressive wealth of talent and her pioneering skill set to inform others through speaking engagements, educational forums, in her prose and visual art , and recently published is her book Digital Alchemy: Printmaking Techniques for Fine Art, Photography and Mixed-Media.

Last year Lhotka exhibited at Walker Fine Art in a group show and this year will exhibit solo there in an exhibit entitled Horizons , and over the six months via email, post mail and phone conversation, she took the time to share her heart’s artistic passion—the pulse of her life’s work.

Digital Alchemy by Bonny Lahotka

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Bonny Lhotka’s Digital Alchemy

by Max Eternity

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Max Eternity (ME): Hi Bonny, thanks for taking the time to speak to me on behalf of The Huffington Post and AD MAG.

 

Bonny Lhotka (BL):  I’m glad to do it.  That’s a very nice magazine you have online.

 

ME:  I want to ask about your early beginnings as a traditional artist, then how you became a digital artist.  What inspired you to be an artist?

 

BL:  Way back, when Walt Disney came out with the movies in the theater.  The first time I saw Tinkerbelle go up to the screen and the image fell out of the brush, I decided I wanted to do that.  The other thing was a field trip to the art institute of Chicago.  I saw an exhibition of Seurat, Cezanne and Monet.  Seeing those original oils in person, I remember that to this day.  That luscious surface as opposed to what I had seen in a book.  I was just drawn to that.

 

My training in college was in printmaking and painting.  I did acrylic and collograph prints, and oil painting.  I worked like that through 1990.  Then in the Denver, the art market plummeted.  There were no sale, little interest. I decided I would give up my studio, or expand and create something beyond traditional media.  At that time HP [Hewlett Packard] had come out with the first color printer.  When I saw a print at a MacWorld convention in San Francisco,  I knew at that moment the direction I wanted to go.

 

At MacWorld I figured out what I needed to go that route; it was about 1992.

 

Had life been different,  I would have ended up being an accountant or going into medical research.  At one point I thought to be a speech therapist.  But it made more sense to stick to my training in fine art.

 

ME:  How did you go from there? What did you start out doing first?

BL:  I heard about a workshop that Dorothy Krause was giving called Beyond the Digital Print.  It was a workshop combining traditional printmaking with inkjet.  I met Dorothy and Karen Schminke.  The three of us from that day on began a collaboration to gain access to equipment and test it for fine art applications.

 

We have written hundreds of articles about the research.  Even today we continue to explore; getting feedback to artists and companies of what we’d like to see in the next generation of hardware.

 

I think what’s important is that none of us liked the straight digital print, so because we came from the traditional background we were missing that experience.  That’s what drove us to create all these new techniques of mixing traditional and digital.

 

“Party Friends”

 

ME:  In the past we have referred to artists who work in multiple mediums as multi-disciplined artists.  But a few years back I came up with the term TADAE, which stands for Traditional And Digital Artist Engineer, because it occurred to me that some artists weren’t just working in a variety of media, they had also become entrepreneurs, writers, programmers, engineers, inventors, editors, publishers, educators and the like.  You’re working on a book right now.  You’re also an inventor, and you’ve got your own line of products, called DASS.

 

BL:  I’m an inventor and I apply my creativity to get to where I want to go.  I see an end vision—working backwards to a starting point.  I draw on common everyday observation in material and experience to find a solution to create the image that I’m after.  When I wanted my digital prints to look like they were on plaster, I researched frescos, how they were made; the chemistry of it.  I applied that research with what I had in my kitchen, putting together the gelatin and calcium carbonate.  I found that any liquid I could convert to a gelatin state, I could lay [a print] on it and the image would move to the gelatin.  You could never do this with an inkjet.

 

That gelatin can be made with marble dust, sand, ground up gravel, and other things.

 

So it’s that treating the inkjet print on film as the plate.  That would be parallel to a traditional ink plate, which can be treated a variety of ways, making part of it scraped away to create one of a kind pieces of artwork.

 

ME:  But of course, as you probably know the art world can be sometimes be a very conservative place, often resisting change.  Have you experience with this?

 

BL:  I still think there’s a resistance today amongst collectors thinking of digital prints of something of value.

 

We had our first exhibit of digital prints in 1994 at Sandy Carson Gallery.  It was the most people she had ever had at an opening.  And when we did the event at the Smithsonian, people show up angry and hostile, saying that it was not art.  The curators didn’t know what to think.

 

ME: So, has this mentality changed at all?  What’s stopping collectors from taking digital prints as seriously as they should?

 

BL:  [sighs] The ease at which an artist can use the editioning process, and the lack of a guarantee, it’s just too easy to make them.  And I think that’s what has driven me to combine the hands-on, because the digital part of it is just a step to get to where I’m going.

 

ME:  Art forgeries are historically legendary.  There’s the real possibility of fakes, with oil paintings and other traditional media?

 

BE:  It’s a lot harder to fake an oil in quantity.

 

I have seen very few signed limited edition digital prints, and certainly photography is 98% of the market.  And photographers have never really limited what they did.  So fine art artists are fighting that paradigm set up by photographers.

 

Certainly, prior to digital imaging, artist could only integrate photography into collage or a transfer method that was very toxic, similar to what Rauschenberg did.  Artists were sampling and collaging from newspapers and magazines.

 

What I find very curious is that 5 years ago I had an an exhibit in Denver, to discover i had been voted the best experimental photographer in Denver.  And I was like okay, I’m a photographer?  That is hung around my neck that I’m a photographer, but i don’t know why, because I’m not a photographer.

 

I think it’s strange how the marketplace has to put a tag on someone.

 

ME:  So how do we work to remedy this?

 

BE:  When we first started i came up with the term unique edition.  That edition was an edition of a one-of-a-kind print that came from the same matrix of the computer.  And, I will say that with my cured ink flatbed printers, there is a difference how the artwork is perceived.  These prints are much more accepted by collectors.  They commission them.

 

ME:  But many fakes do exist with traditional media, so doesn’t it go back to trusting the dealer and the artist for authenticity?

 

BE:  Yes, that’s what it’s about.  You have to know who you’re buying from.

 

I’ve heard stories of traditional artist signing blank pieces of paper, later to be printed by whomever.

 

Me.  Yes, me too—specifically about Salvador Dali being one of the ones who was supposedly notorious for doing this. Okay…so, tell me about your new book.

 

BE: I’m writing a book named Digital Alchemy:  Techniques for Fine Art, Photography and Mixed-Media.  It’s going to be about all of the products and recipes I’ve made for creating digital art.

 

It’s strictly process; it will not tell people how to be artists.  I’m just giving people tools to go beyond that digital print.

 

“Blue Memories”

 

ME:  Anything else new and exciting happening?

 

BL:  A gallery in Denver, Walker Fine Art, will have an exhibition that I’m in, and that work will be new work with lasers–laser flatbed.  I’ve taken these transfer techniques, where i can get my digital image on wood or metal.  I sent that to the laser and it transfers that into a print. Also I’ve devolved a process of putting digital images on crystal colorless glass, which look like daguerreotype. There’s an example of those to be in my book.

 

ME:  You have some very informative tutorial podcasts on Youtube, many of which I’ve seen.  Great ideas, it’s very inspiring.

 

BL:  Taking really old photography to contemporary media, it’s really unique.  Every day I get up is a new dawn, and I never have a plan.  Something starts.

 

I’m a little like a canoe in a fast floating river.  When I hit a rock, I just go the other way.  My mother said I collect solutions for problems I don’t have.

 

That’s why [I’ve written] the book.  I’m giving solutions to other people.

 

ME:  That’s wonderful.  I enjoyed speaking with you.  Thanks again.

 

BL: Well, thank you for the interview.

 

 

 

Art and Technology Enrich a Community

In Art, Feature, Interview, News on January 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

WACTC Director, Felton Cogell (Image: Max Eternity)

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Technology is all around, in abundance.  And some might even complain there too much technology at our avail.  As with a tsunami or hurricane which turns the positive benefits of water into a destructive force, what good are stores filled with pricey techno-tools if those who most need it can’t afford to buy it?

Digital literacy is not always de jour, because in the world of technology, you have to pay to play.  Computers and broadband access cost money, and for those on fixed incomes, very low-income or no income, participating online can sometimes seem next to impossible.

Some non-profit organizations are addressing this issue.

In a neighborhood close to San Francisco’s City Hall is the Western Addition Community Technology Center.  It’s a place of community devoted to using digital photography, art and technology to transform and heal the lives of young and old alike.

At WACTC one can learn how to build a resume, use computers to learn about genealogy, search online for jobs, edit digital photos, paint in Adobe Photoshop, troubleshoot computer problems and develop a host of other useful skills.

Felton Cogell is the center’s director, and in a recent group discussion, he and a few of the center’s clients shared their thoughts about the WACTC.

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The Western Addition Community Technology Center

by Max Eternity

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A photo by Felton Cogell

 

Max Eternity (ME):  So how did the center come about?

Felton Cogell (FC):  During the late 1990’s with President Clinton, he allocated so many dollars, because he felt there was going to be a digital divide.  Many states had money, so we got support from the feds, the state and the city to open the center.

ME:  How did you get involved—why?

I’ve been seeking out this type of work since the late 90’s.  I had worked as a network administrator, and when I realized how much I knew, I felt like this is what I wanted to do.  A friend who knew me thought I would be a good fit, but they had hired someone already.  So I tried to get the next position; taking a position as an instructor.  Then I got promoted, working with seniors—the elderly.  I realized then that everyone works at a different rate, in a different way.

ME:  So, tell me about your connection to technology and creativity.

FC:  I’ve been a photographer for 40 years.  I’ve always had that artistic edge in me.  I’ve never been school trained, but I’ve been painting for many years.  I’d been using Photoshop for several years—growing along with it.  So, I teach courses that I have a lot of interest in.

I also teach genealogy.

I’m doing the things I like to do.  It’s not work.  I’ve established some great relationships.  A lot of people have come here to learn.

ME:  How do you describe the digital divide?

It’s people who don’t have access to the digital world by having a computer at home that’s working, and having access to the internet.  They miss out in those two areas; not able to come home and practice. A lot of homework has to be done online.  So, that affects homework, because there’s not computers and broadband at home.

Today the digital divide affects mainly the poor, who can’t afford a computer and broadband. And what makes it even worse, is that there are [physical] community divides.

ME:  How are you clients benefiting from what you offer?

Some people have gotten better jobs, and they’ve gotten promotions if they’ve already had jobs. This particular community has a lot of crime; a lot of people who were dealing drugs got a second start here.  I have personally hired people from the community who had been prior incarcerated.   Not all have had problems with the law, but many have.

I’m finding people in the 50’s are struggling, because they don’t’ know the programs—Microsoft Office, et all.  And they are competing with high school graduates. This group is in a tough place, but with the 20 to 40 crowd, I’ve seen a lot of success.

A photo by Felton Cogell

A photo by Felton Cogell

 

WACTC Students Comment


Louvenia Williams says:

I’m 81. I was here when they built the building.  I’ve been here 8 or 9 years, first learning general software, then Photoshop.  I found that I loved it–that’s been my focus ever since.   Some of [my] the old family photographs, I’ve tried restoring.  Because they were in black and white, I’ve added color to a few of them.

Well, since I am retired, I feel like a family here. I look forward to coming to the center.  We have our picnics, field trips…we celebrate birthdays.

It keeps my mind active to be involved.  I walk to the center, so it’s good exercise.  It benefits me in many ways.

James Smith says:

I’m 75 years old.  I’ve been coming here since the first of the year.  I found out about it through one of my lodge members.    I need to learn about computers, and about taking pictures.  Every time I go somewhere people ask me if I’ve brought pictures back.  I never did, but now I’m trying to play catch-up to bring pictures back.

I’m meeting my expectations.  I enjoy the camaraderie of all the people here.  They’ve all been helpful.  Sometimes the students tend to help with the instructors.  It is beginning to be like a family.  When someone is missing, you miss them.  You get used to them being here.

I had been buying computers for my children.  I didn’t want to get involved myself, but I reluctantly decided to switch over.  I’m enjoying it too.

Doretha Albert says:

I’m 72.  I’ve been coming here since 2002.  I worked as a registered nurse for 36 years and at that time I had secretaries doing data input.  Once I returned, I knew nothing about computers. I knew nothing about email…or nothing.  One day I was at church and they announced they were opening a computer center, and I enrolled.  I came and learned how to do emails.  At the time we learned how to do copy and paste. We had different programs, like Publisher.  We learned how to make mailing envelops, and how to do business cards. The class did a newsletter. This was in the first year.

I enjoy working on computers, using Photoshop.  It’s my pride and joy.

For more information about the WACTC, contact Resource Manager, Melanee Hall @ 415 431 2206

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The WACTC blogspot, which has images of student’s work can be found here.  and a PDF document showing the WACTC February schedule of classes and events can be found here.

Postmodern Modernist Generator

In Art, Commentary, News on September 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm

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Postmodern Modernist Generator

by Don Relyea

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The Postmodern Modernist Generator [PMG] is a creative programming tool I originally created in 2006. It explores automating an artistic design process in a lighthearted manner. The art generator was designed to systematically break down and simplify the design process for automation, with each resulting piece being uniquely different.

 

Although automating an artistic process through computer programming is actually pretty easy, it is, however, nearly an impossible task to replicate the human factor.  As artists are typically inspired by an array of indeterminate things–thinking organically and acting out of intuition, more than out of set parameters or processes.  Differences in how artists perceive their subject matter and the choices they make, while rendering their works, create endless controlled variations in output. Hence the best one can hope to do with an computer emulated artist process, is going to be an approximation of a set of potential artist creative paths that lead to a graphic result.

 

As I add logic to the decision algorithms, add chaos to the system and increase the set of systemic processes available to the emulated artist, the possible set of paths and subsequent results essentially reach infinite variations.  The PMG is not meant to replace the human touch, and by no means consistently generates better looking designs than a human can.  However it does generate good output fairly often; much faster than a real human artist can on their own.

For the purposes of this project I have simplified the process to a set style of abstract modernist forms and designs, for now, focusing on automating color choices, subject matter, layout, image manipulation and the abstraction process in the digital environment ,using mostly processes that a digital artist would most likely employ.

 

While the program generates abstract modernist looking output, the overall concept of creating an automated artist process is somewhat of a postmodern concept, hence the title “Postmodern Modernist Generator”.

 

PMG contains a limited artificial intelligence, which automates the color choices, layout, image manipulation, as well as the balance of abstraction vs. detail and titling.  It’s a process that takes about a second to complete.

 

Color choices are automated by arbitrarily referencing a color lookup table for color relationships that work. The color relationships are derived from sampling the most prominent colors, from a variety of sources. Historically significant artists works are sampled, like Calder, De Kooning and Matisse, with a good many samplings derived from Bauhaus Master and noted color theorist, Josef Albers.  Nature is also a good source for color relationships that work, and samples are taken from random images on the web.

 

Here’s the technical rundown.

 

The PMG algorithms generates malleable color schemes much the same way Adobe Kuler works;  plotting relationships on an internal color wheel.  This is applied to a rotational offset, which extracts a new set of rgb values with the same relationships. In this way color options are endless, but generally work well together.

After a color scheme has been chosen, the applet creates shaders from chosen colors. It then creates a 3d world of primitives and assigns them the shaders. This creates an arbitrary volumetric space to be abstracted and expands the color depth of the source image.

 

A 2d image is then extracted and run through a variety of systemic and procedural process for abstraction. Virtual layers are created, assigned a stacking order, and various levels of opacity are applied.  Then all layers are merged.

 

Lastly when the graphic processes are complete, the program assigns the work a title by combining a noun, an adjective and a random number attempting in futility to assign meaning to the work. While this is a trivial task to program, it is an important final step in the process of creating a modernist work.  Since in my view, modernism seeks to make sense out of the senseless; imposing meaning through art where otherwise there is none.

 

When AD MAG inquired about PMG, I found it an odd, serendipitous timing, because I had recently received several emails about the work from internet viewers asking a variety of questions; mostly around how it works and where the images are coming from. Some people were in disbelief that the images are generated on demand. The questions and interest in the project reminded me of what I had always wanted to do with the program; to make it completely autonomous.

 

Now, I’m setting the PMG free.

 

This project has had several incarnations over its life as an executable, a shockwave application, a Google gadget and a screensaver, and until being asked to write this essay, PMG was an application controlled by a user. The user was the decider. But now that is not the case. I have set it free from users. I have given the program the capacity to run autonomously and and through some nice advances in social networking integration, PMG can post its own output via email to its own blog, Facebook Tumblr , Twitter et all.

Adding self promotion to the process of creating a work makes sense. Artists are perpetual promoters. In order to make an autonomous artist simulation, it must be able to promote itself and trumpet its creations. .

 

The ability to connect a generative artwork to an array of social networks, give PMG a profile, allowing it to post on its own while I sleep, work, play with the kids or do whatever opens up a new world of possibilities and questions.

 

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Don Relyea is an artist, programmer, sound designer and inventor specializing in print making and information systems. Relyea experience extends through the video and interactive CD production, as well as multi-media content for traditional and digital.  He is particularly focused in the area of computational art; writing his own custom art software in C++ and Open GL. And he often uses his creative skills to weave cultural, social and political dimensions into his work.  Nature and mathematical forms are also common subjects.  Relyea’s artwork has been in exhibited internationally. In 2008, his politically charged “hair particle drawing” portrait of George Bush was simultaneously exhibited in Los Angeles and New York. Recently, Relyea’s video art series Generative Flowers has been installed outdoors in Downtown Dallas, in the Digital Grafitti Festival at Alys beach Florida, the W hotel in Seoul Korea and the International Free Exchange Zone in Incheon Korea.  Relyea is also an avid inventor with many patents pending. Relyea lives and works in Dallas Texas USA with his wife and three kids.

Homage: Contemporary Art in Digital Media

In Art, Commentary, News on August 28, 2010 at 7:48 pm

“Oak Tree” by Kerry Mitchell

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H O M A G E

Contemporary Art in Digital Media

by Joe Nalven and Jim Respress
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“The Sanction of the Cloth” by Liz Lopes

Homage is a good beginning for connecting traditions in art as well as pointing the way to contemporary understandings about picturing the world around us.  Based in San Diego, California, the Digital Art Guild [DAG] is an international organization currently presenting a touring group exhibition of digital art prints, which opened July 9th at the Partnership for the Arts Municipal Gallery in Escondido, California, and will travel on September 11th to the Art Institute of California – San Diego.  The show bears the title Homage.

For the exhibition, which showcases what is a longstanding tradition in the history of art, artists were asked to create pieces that represent a celebration of persons or ideas that have influenced their lives; using computer software, the most recent of artistic media.

“Homage in art is useful for looking back to those upon whose shoulders we stand, connecting us to a diversity of visions about the human condition”

A large portion of art throughout history has paid homage to earlier artists and their work.  Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, painted in 1656, has often been the subject of homage.  Pablo Picasso painted 58 variations of Las Meninas more than 300 years after the original, using it to explore color, movement, form and rhythm.  Another of Velázquez’s paintings, “Portrait of Pope Innocent X”, became the source of many variations for Francis Bacon.  His well-known “Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” is often referred to as the Screaming Pope.

The styles and art context for Velázquez were quite different than for Picasso and Bacon. Velázquez lived in 17th century Spain and became the court painter to King Philip IV, a despotic ruler and sometimes thought to be the cause of Spain’s decline. For Picasso and Bacon and their respective homage, in an outpouring of variations, occurred in a time where various art movements had sprung up. But for both artists, their interpretations were part of an emerging European expressionism, or perhaps neo-expressionism, following World War II.

Homage in art is useful for looking back to those upon whose shoulders we stand, connecting us to a diversity of visions about the human condition. But what makes an artistic homage interesting and not a mere copy?  What makes each an anecdote or a poor rendition of a cultural icon?

“In art as well as in science, almost everything we create is homage to those who have created before us”

Members of DAG prefer to be in the first category not in the latter, delivering meaningful works of art, not mere copies. That was the challenge that the Homage show presented. Having been formed in 2003, and having members with experience in digital media for a much longer period of time, DAG wanted to exceed its previous exhibits with a STATEMENT.

Creatives constantly need to build from something in order to synthesize new ideas. The stimulus for new ideas rarely comes from a single source but rather many; sometimes often seemingly unrelated sources. In the area of digital art, for example, we owe as much to computer science as we do to traditional forms of art.

In art as well as in science, almost everything we create is homage to those who have created before us.  Although, we may not always be aware of the nod.  We might even need to have it pointed out to us by another observer.  When, on the other hand, one sets out intentionally to create a work of art that pays homage to someone or something, the task is quite different.

“No ideological cliché need apply, but rather a muscular engagement of intellect and spirit, in the continuing adventure of art”

The starting point is the object of homage, be it a person or perhaps an idea.  The challenge then is to create something that hopefully does not copy the object, but utilizes some attribute or element, as such, that the viewer can recognize. And the end result should be a piece of artwork that stands on its own, while at the same time bows graciously to the honored idea or person.

In this exhibition we present forty-nine new pieces of art created in digital media that express homage in their own way, acknowledging a single source of inspiration.  Though collectively, the combined works also serve to acknowledge the arts and humanities contribution from the ever-developing field of digital media.  This is a gentle way of making a statement that the tools of the imagination can be paint and paintbrushes, Brillo pads, thrown paint, mixed media objects embedded in the surface or art created with a computer. And in that regard, this digital-aged homage informs that we are no different than Velázquez, Picasso or Bacon.

It requires the viewer to pay attention to the image–its vision, composition and impact, not the tools of the trade. No ideological cliché need apply, but rather a muscular engagement of intellect and spirit, in the continuing adventure of art.

Is Your Museum Too White?

In Commentary, Feature, Interview, News on August 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm

(Image credit: kconnors / morguefile)

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Is Your Museum Too White?

by Max Eternity

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For some years now, behind the scenes and in galleries and museums, artists and curators have been discussing the transformative effects electronic and digital technologies are having in the arts. As a curatorial adviser on digital art – the founder of Art Digital Magazine, which has the largest online archive in the world of feature-length interviews with new media artists, writers and educators – I’ve participated in quite a few of these debates.

With some expected delay, works of art made with digital tools are becoming more accepted in the mainstream, as the intersection between the arts and sciences becomes intractably intertwined. This has led some to wonder: Is the word “artist” becoming outdated? We now have nomenclature for new mediums and genres, so what about the people creating those works? Who’s a “technologist” versus who’s an “artist”? Or does it make better sense to just call a person on the cutting-edge of art and technology, a “creative”? In addition, there is a growing need to understand and incorporate new social constructs, such that the institutions of art and culture can reach their audiences and, thus, remain relevant.

Just like the industrial revolution, which started out as a technological leap forward in agriculture and manufacturing 200 years ago and 100 years later entered a second wave that ended up being a catalyst for great change all around – literally transforming interactions between race and class – the digital revolution is not just about online entertainment, easy chat and techno-gadgets. No, its causation reverberates much deeper than that.

Here’s a quick for instance. Through mass production, as Europe moved from Gutenberg’s hand press, invented in 1440, to the 19th Century, printing went from a luxury to something ubiquitous and quite affordable. This in turn saw the rise of public libraries and literacy rates went up dramatically. It may seem hard to believe now, but once upon a time, books were essentially to be found only in well-funded religious institutions and in the homes of the rich. There was no such thing as the local community college, the public library or the neighborhood Barnes & Noble. And as far as fine art printing went – as in, lithographs of artists’ works – until the industrial age, there was no such thing as editioning off 300 prints for prospective clients.

Today, commerce and culture are happening in a virtual realm, resulting in real, quantifiable, socio-economic change. And while oil paintings and industrial age print types continue to dominate in galleries and museums, art facilitated by digital tools is popping up everywhere.

As humankind takes another leap forward, whether or not it likes it, this past century’s art hierarchy will not escape certain changes in what they show and to whom and how they show. And who better to talk to about these new shifts than Nina Simon, editor of the blogazine Museum 2.0. She’s a successful, well-educated white woman, who says, quite frankly, “museums are too white.”

Nina Simon (Image credit: Nina Simon)

Max Eternity: On your web site, it says Museum 2.0 explores ways that web 2.0 philosophies can be applied in museum design. Could you give a explanation of what that means?

Nina Simon: There are so many examples of expectations around authority on who produces cultural content. I’m interested in how that impacts what happens in traditional cultural intuitions.

Tim O’Reilly defines Web 2.0 as software that gets better the more people use it. I’m interested in that question. How does a museum get better as people walk through the door, not worrying about how someone is dressed or if they will break something, instead seeing people as individuals who can share their expertise and stories to improve everybody’s experience?

ME: So, in addition to what they show, the question must also be asked: who are they showing to and how?

NS: Right and how is a visitor not just a consumer but a participant with that concept.

ME: In an article you wrote last year entitled “Deliberately Unsustainable Business Models,” you say museums are made to plod along, not to shoot to the moon. What’s that about?

NS: I think it’s not specific to museums, a lot of non-profits work this way. A for-profit is made to make a lot of money – to fill your place and make money. There is an understanding that many of those business are going to fail. When you create a museum and you are going to protect these artifacts, or feed the hungry or whatever it is, there’s an expectation that you’re going to be around for a while to provide that program or service. So non-profits are fundamentally not built to achieve a business objective, they are built to provide services, which leads to a mentality of self preservation, not innovation.

ME: So how should museums go about choosing to survive or be “awesome,” as you say? Can they do both?

NS: Well yes, they definitely can. However, survival can’t be your first goal. There are some that need to focus on being awesome, but some not. For instance, if you have the Venus de Milo, that is a conservation ethic and goal about being safe. However, if you are the Bloomington Art Center or the Arizona Science Center, why not try to do whatever you can to really fulfill you mission in a way that’s gong to be exciting? You have to make choices in what you do. It’s about taking some risks.

A lot of work I do with museums is to help them get comfortable taking some risks. I create experiences that allow museums new ways to connect with audiences.

ME: Another article you wrote this year, asks: “What Does it Really Mean to Serve ‘Underserved’ Audiences?” In the piece you state, “Most large American museums are reflections of white culture.” They are “comfortable for whites, while feeling alien for people who don’t grow up in a white culture.” That’s a bold statement to make and being that you are white, that makes it even more surprising. Explain further, if you will.

NS: Well, I can’t speak for all museums. I have been in many museums where that’s not the case. But, I think it’s certainly known historically that most American museums were created in collaboration with some white person who had a collection or created an endowment, which caused that museum to be. So, this has resulted in museums having had goals about educating the lower class and the masses. Maybe white culture isn’t the best to describe it, but a particularly type of upper class or culture, that may or may not be white.

This article was particularly about the science center that I talked about in the piece and in this case the teens were predominately black. But it’s more than just about race. Museums are a reflection of a particular kind of elitism that tends to be white. The majority of visitors are white and there is a real need in museums is to find out how they can invite non-whites to come in. It’s about saying: Hey we’re here for you too.

Who feels comfortable here – what are we subconsciously saying the right and wrong ways to experience this place are and who feels comfortable with those different ways?

When you really talk to people about “why don’t you come,” the answers are complex but it’s always about who feels comfortable inside versus who’s being shut out.

ME: I think, too, it probably has to do with the broader ramifications of new technology, but what else specifically would you say is at the root of recent cultural and living anthropological shifts?

NS: Anthropologically, I think that in history and anthropology museums there has been a rise in the value of viewpoints on particular events – on the use of oral history to captures a story. There’s not just one story, there are many stories here. So, how can we invite many voices to be a part of this story – this object?

ME: Tell me about you book “The Participatory Museum.” What’s it about; why did you write it?

NS: There are a lot of arguments about loosening up authority, opening up the co-creation of the content inside. I feel great about that. Running the blog for the last year, I had a pulse on the concerns. What’s the story – what’s the utility of this?

Then people were asking about the how, with their boards asking: What should we do? How can we get comfortable with this? So, I wrote the book not just to argue why, but to give people tools and resources around how; case studies and design techniques around particular aspects in participations.

Let’s look at what’s possible to do. Explaining how with examples of how, is what I felt was really needed to get people to the next level.

ME: So, Nina, with all that you’ve said, how would you summate this dilemma, while also speaking to a new modality for building and sustaining a successful museum?

NS: Again and again, I’ve found that the only way to make museums comfortable, exciting places for diverse audiences is to spend time with people who are not like you; to listen and understand what they like, what they need, what they respond to. We all have internalized biases about how we want people around us to behave and I frequently see those biases butt up against aspirational statements about diversity. A museum will say they want to attract teens but then the guards growl at kids who travel in packs or are too loud. A museum will say it wants to attract working people but it closes every night at 5. This is why I love working with people who are not traditional museum visitors. I learn so much from them; things that are hard for me to see as an insider.

There is a museum culture and it does affect who does and doesn’t feel comfortable visiting the institution. If we ever want to really make these institutions as accessible, open and diverse as possible, we have to confront the biases inherent in the culture, and question them.

Value the people over the traditions. Show some respect and love for someone who is different from you.

The Participatory Museum, cover illustration by Jennifer Rae Atkins (Image credit: Nina Simon)

Creating Common Ground

In Art, Feature, Interview, News on June 28, 2010 at 8:05 am

“Patching the Earth” by Bert Monterona

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Creating Common Cround

A conversation with Larry Richard

by Max Eternity

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Larry Richard in 2008 at the Common Ground exhibition in Beijing

Blending philanthropy with the visual arts and environmental concerns, Larry Richard has a long-standing career in bringing interested parties together through his own style of innovative marketing strategies. A humanist, naturalist and entrepreneur, Richard is the founder of Common Ground, a non-profit organization whose motto is “Merging art and Digital Media for a Healthy Planet.”

Richard says the organization helps artists and the environment in three ways: raising visibility and awareness in the media, selling books and prints then donating part of those funds to other environmental groups, with the third way being what he calls “leveraging corporate social responsibility”

First envisioned in 2004 and formally organized in 2007, Richard launched the Common Ground International Touring Exhibition in 2008.  That exhibition and presentation was first shown in Beijing, coinciding with the Summer Olympics held there that same year.

Selected from a pool of over 1000 international artists, 40 artists were been chosen to participate in the show, which makes its way to Los Angeles next month–opening at the A & I Gallery on July 8th.

***

Max Eternity (ME):  Hi Larry

Larry Richard (LR):  Hi Max

ME:  In 2008 we met online through an arts organization you founded, Common Ground (CG).  You had a call-to-artist for an exhibition in China.  I submitted a work and was accepted with a group of about 100 artists from 40 countries.  Tell me about vision for Common Ground—why you created it?

LR:  Sure, back in 2004 I was approached by the Americans for Graphic Art (AIGA) who knew of my background in promoting events, some of which had to do with technology and art.  They came together with AIGA realizing that I have an interest in the cross-section of the visual arts and technology.  The asked how would you feel about working with us to help artists in Cuba and the US who would use the internet to share their dream—their perspective across the divide–being so close yet so far away?

They asked for ideas, and asked if I could go to Cuba.  They said sure, and I said…I’m in.  I connected with the idea of increasing communication between art in the US and Cuba, with an event called Shared Dreams, part of the Cuban digital design exhibition in 2004/05/06.  One of my ideas was to bring that concept to the US, and was told I couldn’t do that because the Bush administration would shut you right down.

I said I wanted to show art, and cleared some hurdles and we brought the exhibition to the US, selling posters (unsigned prints) donating the money to a non-profit that supports Cuban artist world wide.

It was at that moment when I realized that I could bring artists together despite all the boundaries.  If I could do that, I would bring artists together to work on the environment, starting Common Ground in 2007.  The positive response was overwhelming.

Larry Richard poses in front of the Huan Tie Museum in Beijing, 2008.

ME: “Merging art and Digital Media for a Healthy Planet” is the Common Ground motto.  Tell me some ways, this is achieved.

LR:  Well, in 3 ways.  The most important ways is raising visibility and awareness in the media—a group of artist can have an impact to have a much larger visibility in the press.  The second: through the sale of books and proceeds from the prints, donating money directly to 3 different non-profit organizations, World Wildlife Fund, Global Giving, and the Global Environmental Institute in China.  The third way is something I’m calling leveraging corporate social responsibility. By that I mean for example, with Hewlett Packard as a supporter, we’re able to leverage directives given by almost every fortune 500 corporate board.  Every one has a core directive–a corporate social reasonability directive, because every corporation wants to be seen as good corporate citizens demonstrating to shareholders and the public that they are good stewards.  So we use that that leverage to offer them an opportunity to be that by supporting CG—technology and the environment by giving us the ability to have a platform.

We give artist a way to express themselves about the environment, and give corporations a way to prove their good corporate citizenship.

“Time of Rethinking” by Li Tiejun

ME: And about yourself, where did you grow up?

LR: In Los Angeles

ME:  Were environmental concerns always important to you, and who influenced you in this direction?

LR:  Yes, being a Californian I live at the beach.  I have camped and hiked my entire life.  I’ve been a longtime supporter of environmental organizations for many, many years.  For most of my adult life I’ve been passionate about the environment.  One of the reasons that galvanized my passion was when I had a granddaughter–to imagine my going camping with them, going to the beach.  It would be such a loss to not have them experience the passion for a clean environment that I feel. If I can do anything to make sure they have clean rivers, oceans, skies and food.  I’ll do all I can. They are a good reason to make me maintain my passion about the environment.

“Common Ground” by   Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

ME:  Before CG, you were experienced in organizing for various causes and missions?

LR:  Two things: back in 1996 I produced an exposition trade show here in LA called Online Expo.  Think back, most of us had no idea about what the World Wide Web was to become.  But, I knew it was about to explode.  So I gathered corporate sponsors like Sun, ADM and Microcenter and rented an L.A. convention center to create the event.   35,000 people attended.  We were talking about what the online world would be like for business and the consumer.  That was my introduction to producing an event that had to do with technology, bringing that to the public.

Many years before that, I produced a touring exhibition of photography back in 1989-1992, called the Fine Art Collection of Dezo Hoffmann.  His claim to fame was he was the personal private photographer to the Beetles.  This was way before digital.  The original negatives were owned by his family that had passed to someone in Australia. I went and negotiated rights to have the North American rights for distribution for signed and certified prints for this exhibition.

That’s the background that brought it all together.

“Hovering Child” by Fran Forman

“Ribs Cage” by Iv Toshain

“Miami” by Amalia Pellegrini

“Ec(h)o” by Peter Boyadjieff

ME:  I see so much overlap happening these days—artists becoming entrepreneurs, community organizers becoming environmental activists, writers becoming publishers and so forth.  Is this something you observe as well; a new more dynamic business model?

LR:  I guess the word overlap is good.  Another word might be multiple-income streams, because, it’s not enough in this day and age to be an entrepreneur.  It’s also about using that ability to identify a product or service to make money, and accomplish other good things…raising awareness. And money then gets donated for other good products.

If I can accomplish this, leveraging my talent and expertise while making money, and artists get to make money while donating some proceeds to environmental organizations, that makes a perfect storm for a good way to use my life, right for my own desk.  I would never have thought 20 years ago that this would have been possible—integrating passion with my work.

Me   Larry, thanks for your time.

LE: I’m very grateful that you took the time to speak with me.

“Mother Earth” by Karen Swaty

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To learn more about Larry Richard and Common Ground, click here.  A full 3-year archive of AD MAG articles and interviews can be found here.

Digital Art: Medium or Metaphor?

In Art, Commentary, News on March 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

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Digital Art: Medium or Metaphor
by Scott Ligon

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Digital Art has traditionally been categorized as a tool and as a medium. The software program, Adobe Photoshop, for example, is one of my favorite image making tools because of its unparalleled ability to manipulate and synthesize elements from different sources, allowing one to create something unique and cohesive. Digital art is also considered to be a medium, when the digital platform is used from start to finish. This is often applied to creative endeavors, which are time based, interactive and/or virtual.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I keep coming back to the conclusion that digital art is not a medium.  Notwithstanding, at any given time in any given circumstance, digital art may essentially function as a medium

Ultimately, I’m not overly concerned whether people want to consider digital art to be a medium or not.  Yet I do believe that it is true, that digital art does function beyond the constraints of a medium.  But even more important than that being true, it is irrelevant. Even the asking of this question implies an outmoded way of thinking.

***
“Fully realizing the enabling potential of digital technology requires fluidity of thinking. It requires the ability to consider the potential relationships between elements rather than subdivide them into increasingly arbitrary categories”
***

Digital technology is blurring the boundaries between mediums, to extent that already many former, long-standing boundaries have completely lost their meaning. Whether something is a still image, moves, interacts with the viewer, has sound, or is only sound, comes down to the various choices in one’s digital toolbox, rather than examples of different mediums. This blurring of boundaries changes the approach to creative endeavors.

Why?  Because, a medium as traditionally defined has certain specific characteristics. In many respects, mediums are also defined by their limitations.

Imagine this.  Oil paint has a slow drying time and acrylic paint has a quick drying time. A painter who uses either of these mediums had better understand these qualities if he or she is to create a successful painting. An artist who creates a metal sculpture had better understand the limits of his materials before he or she installs a forty foot structure in a public area! Digital art (or digital technology applied to creative pursuits) functions beyond the constraints of a medium.

And yet, digital art is made up of the placement of programmed ones and zeros. It has no inherent characteristics. If it appears to have characteristics at all, it’s because of current technological limitations.

When we think of digital 3D animation, for instance, we might think of smooth geometricized figures–a kind of simplified realism with sophisticated lighting. If 3D animation seems defined by these characteristics, it’s because, given the technological limitations of recent year, this style of 3D animation could do well. Hence, due to such temporary technological limitations, this particular application of digital art has the appearance of a medium.

We see this, recognize these qualities, and can then identify this work as digital 3D animation.

Every day, software designers are developing better and better interfaces, working to eliminate or minimize barriers, and aesthetic imperfections. And every year processing power and file storage increase exponentially. Which suffices to say, that technical limitation in the digital art realm is always temporary…not an inherent characteristic.

Without absolute limitations, I would suggest, digital art cannot have any characteristics. For, through evolution, it can look like anything. Consequentially, without any characteristics, I feel hard pressed to define digital technology as a medium.

I considered (and many smart friends have suggested) that the ones and zeros–the digital information itself– could be the defining characteristic of a medium. Ultimately, I don’t feel like this is a satisfying conclusion.

This digital information is the underlying structure defining any digital creation, but it is not perceptible in any practical way. We can only perceive the result of this invisible structure. As even when an artist is working directly in code, that person still utilizes digital information indirectly. Code and concept define the work, not the specific arrangement of billions of ones and zeros.

This structure functions in the same way that atoms function in the physical world. Atoms are the underlying building blocks of the physical universe. They define everything but are imperceptible under normal circumstances. They make everything physical, including us, but we have no direct relationship with atoms. Instead, we have a direct relationship with materials, and when we apply one of these materials to art-making, we might consider it to be a medium.

Ones and zeros to the digital world = atoms to the physical world. I believe this is a pretty self-evident analogy.  If we accept this analogy and we also consider digital art to be a medium, then it would follow that atoms are the medium of the physical world.

Clearly this does not define a creative medium in any helpful way. Although I find this a satisfying poetic notion with some truth in it, such an equation demonstrates a flaw in logic.

Youtube: Scott Ligon talks about the Digital Art Revolution

We would consider oil paint to be a medium if we were to try to say that oil paint is a sub-category of the “atom” medium.  However, we would have gotten pretty far away from any useful definition of a creative medium.  And so it is with ones and zeros in the digital realm.

There are non-material mediums. Television as traditionally defined is a medium, for example. Television is not materially based, but it still has specific and defining characteristics.   Though, these characteristics may soon change to the degree that we either redefine the medium of television, or give the medium a different name.

An important thinker in digital technology is Pranav Misry.  In watching this linked video from 2009, where he presents at a Technology Entertainment Design (TED) forum, one can grasp a vivid illustration of the potential (and future application) of digital technology. Misry’s TED lecture offers an opportunity to see the seamless and intuitive way that the digital and physical worlds will be integrated in the near future, when the boundaries between atoms and ones and zeros continues to blur, until they become irrelevant, substantiating my belief that it will become increasingly useful and obvious to recognize that digital technology functions beyond the constraints of a medium.

Fully realizing the enabling potential of digital technology requires fluidity of thinking. It requires the ability to consider the potential relationships between elements rather than subdivide them into increasingly arbitrary categories. This, of course, echoes the creative process itself.

Interestingly, in spite of all this change, there are no new visual elements. We continue to work with line, shape, color, etc. Digital technology simply provides new and unprecedented ways to combine and synthesize these elements into something unique and personal.

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SCOTT LIGON, the author of “Digital Art Revolution, Creating Fine Art with Photoshop” (Watson-Guptill/Random House) is an award-winning digital artist who frequently lectures on the subjects of creativity, filmmaking, and digital art.  Ligon is the coordinator for the digital foundation curriculum at the Cleveland Institute of Art. And he is also the author/director of the short film Escape Velocity, winner of “Best Experimental Film” at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, which has played in theaters and festivals worldwide.

“The Digital Dilemma”

In Feature, News on October 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm

ArtWorks magazine, a fine art quarterly based out of Carmel (Pebble Beach) California, has recently published “The Digital Dilemma” which speaks to digital art concerns that some in the industry have as it relates to curating and collecting.  To read the piece in its entirety pick up a copy of the Fall issue of ArtWorks at your local Barnes & Noble.  What follows is a lengthy excerpt from the article.

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The Digital Dilemma
by Max Eternity

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GenFLowIII_003451“Generative Flowers III 003451”

As digital art becomes more mainstream, artists, collectors and galleries alike are having to conceptualizing new ways to function in the marketplace; simultaneously facing the challenges of new media conservation, authentication and provenance.  Yet with a growing market at stake, digital editions are serious business, even though there’s some resistance.

One person with doubts about digital is Andy Weiner, co-owner of Spaightwood Galleries.  Weiner and his partner Sonja have tens of thousands of prints in inventory; a large percentage of which dates back several centuries.  Even so, around 8,000 pieces are of 20th century artists like Warhol, Chagall, Kandinsky and Matisse.  Still the gallery carries no digital editions.

David Rudd Cycleback, author of Judging the Authenticity of Prints by the Masters

“Whether you are talking about a 1650 Rembrandt etching or a 2005 digital print, things like originality, artistic quality and number in existence, affect value and desirability”

– David Rudd Cycleback –

Author of “Judging the Authenticity of Prints by the Masters”

***

Kirstin Heming, Director of Pace Prints in New York, takes a more confident approach to digital editions.  Maybe it’s because the gallery has been selling digital prints since the mid 90’s.  “Our collectors are more secure with the process” she says.  And in regards to conservation of digital inks, Heming says “initially, it may have been a concern, like when we did our first exhibit with Kiki Smith in 1997.  8 years ago, however, inks became less of a worry.”  Indicating that was around the time when ink quality had become engineered to last for centuries instead of decades.  But when asked about the gallery’s protocol for issuing limited digital editions “that distinction is not clearly made” Heming replied.  For some, this is a red flag, because less familiar collectors tend to assume that digital automatically means reproduction, or worse–fake.

Rex Bruce, Director of LACDA

“One thing that should be understood is that people have been buying and selling limited editions a long, long time”

– Rex Bruce –

Director @ The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (LACDA)

***

At the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (LACDA), Rex Bruce, has a very firm stance on issuing protocol.  Bruce, LACDA’s director, says that the art center only shows original singles and limited editions, known as multiple originals.  “There is a huge difference between multiple originals and reproductions” says Bruce.  For that reason “we never show digital reproductions “

GenFLowIII_004295“Generative Flowers 004295” by Don Relyea

Artist Don Relyea has one of the oldest fine art blogs on the internet.  Relyea’s approach to art embraces the concept of digital media convergence.  His Internet site features music, prints and moving images, where he blogs about his family as well.  In Relyea’s words “the internet is a great tool for emerging artists to keep people informed about the projects they are working on…”

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Max Eternity, contributing writer to Artworks Magazine and editor of Art Digital Magazine, is a 21st Century Renaissance man who creates innovative print types reflecting the Bauhaus school and Early American modernism.  In prose via a network of informational web portals, Eternity advocates artistic and social concerns ranging from architectural preservation and digital literacy to the Afro/Euro fine art construct, government transparency, health and nutrition.  An avid inventor, he currently has over a dozen utilities and processes in various stages of development.

Don Relyea : Digital Graffiti

In Art, Feature, News on June 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm

GenFLowIII_003451

– “Generative Flowers III 003451” by Don Relyea –

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GenFLowIII_003124

– “Generative Flowers 003124” by Don Relyea –

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Generative Flowers III @ Digital Graffiti 2009

by Don Relyea

***

I’ve just returned from a fabulous outdoor arts festival held at Alys Beach, Florida.  The festival, called Digital Graffiti, is an annual event created as the world’s first outdoor projection art festival.  Still in its infancy, it’s now in its second year.

The arts festival is situated in the environmentally friendly, master-planned resort community or Alys; a place where the buildings are white; echoing the beautifully, white sands of North Florida’s “Panhandle.”  The white-walled architecture of the town lends itself perfectly to a big outdoor video festival, where video projections are cast on the sides of buildings like graffiti.

The Digital Graffiti festival encompasses most of the Alys beach community, and is set up so that you can follow a general path through the town, ending up at the Caliza pool; the epicenter of the party.  About every 50 ft. there’s a new piece projected up on the walls.  Mixed in with the visual art, a variety of DJ’s and music could be heard playing.

Generative Flowers III is a computational ensemble that I created for the Digital Graffiti festival.  This series is intended to be a celebration of life. It draws flowers from grey scale alpha channels and then feeds back on itself. Environmentalist Mark Charneski, who works for the EPA, contributed the magnificent flower photos and scans, from which the alpha channels were extracted.

The Generative Flowers III algorithm creates a mathematical variant of the Cantor Set. Though, flowers are innate, naturally occurring mathematical expressions, which work very well with the Cantor Set effect. The geometric progression of the Cantor Set is symbolic to me of the natural progression of life.

GenFLowIII_002879

– “Generative Flowers III 002879” by Don Relyea –

Digital Graffiti featured a fine selection of artist, like John Daniel, the creator of “JD’s Funhouse.”  Tucked into a niche on the entrance path, this installation was one of my favorites   I heard it was programmed on a Mac and included interactive fire, laser and fun house mirror effects that the viewer could interact with in real time.  JD’s Funhouse was a delightful piece that my kids spent a lot of time playing with.  And not surprisingly, it won the “Audience Favorite” prize of the show.

Another piece of note is “Afterburner” created by Gwen Vanhee.  It seems I had seen Gwen’s work somewhere else before, but the “Afterburner” projection piece took on a different dimension once spashed against a multi-storied, big white building.  Shantell Martin, the festival’s featured VJ, was another favorite. She draws on a tablet syncopated with live music.  Her style is spontaneous, fun and quirky.  She melted the heart of my 4 year old Ryan, who now wants to Shantell to be his wife.

As far as video festivals go, this one was by far the most engaging and fun shows I’ve ever attended.  I expect Digital Graffiti at Alys Beach to continue to grow each year, and I definitely plan to enter my work again next time around.

Here is a link to Wired Magazine’s coverage of the event and below are some additional links of interest:

Afterburner by Gwen Vanhee

JD’s Funhouse

Shantell Martin

Press photos of Alys Beach – 2008

Digital Graffiti website

Good background post on how it all started

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AD Mag thanks Don for sharing his Digital Graffiti experience.  View more of Don’s artwork in our Artist Galleries and on his official homepage.

Negro Electro

In Art, Feature, News on May 13, 2009 at 3:13 am
"Man of Mystery: Tribe"

"Man of Mystery: Tribe"

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An artistic hypothesis by Max Eternity

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Peak #10

This newly created art genre, Negro Electro, provides a well-defined forum for the mural, craft and color field derivatives that Afro-Artists have contributed to the overall aesthetic of the Euro-American modern arts movement.  Negro Electro succinctly orients the forward-thinking within the context of global advancements in electro-digital, fine art arena.

Predecessors that have inspired this genre range from Harriet Powers, Aaron Douglass and Wilfredo Lam, to Sam Gilliam and Henry C. Porter.  And in a parallel vein similar to the “Post-Black” aesthetic, Negro Electro represents a sector of the new Black.  Sacré Coeur de Haïti (1)Though unlike the “Post-Black” art genre, which found a home by affirming its assimilation into contemporary art via a default rejection of the Negro or Black label while also poking fun at “Whiteness”, Negro Electro articulates Blackness as a graciously inherited, liberating force — having a potent, formidable, artistic pedigree — accepting Whiteness as a part of Blackness, yet maintaining an impersonal intimacy to archetypal imprints.

In the abstract, Negro Electro is a conscious physicality that is largely defined by bold use of color or galvanizing monochromatic scales, lyrical composition and ‘coded’ African-American themes.  Yet in its representational or figural manifestation, the genre presents a more quilt or mural inspired narration.  From this vantage point, symbols and graphics are used to reveal a direct lineage to the simplistically elegant, yet primitive, pre-emancipated Negro who would most likely have been creating in an arts and crafts style reminiscent of pre-colonial Africa.  Thus in effect Negro Electro, like the Black experience in America, is dichotomy of the ancient and the present, the primitive and the modern.  Yet, however minimalist or simplistic, Negro Electro is the embodiment of a sophisticated, multi-faceted expression of creativity, which mirrors the complex connections that Blacks have with both Africa and America; all this set in our post-digital millennia.

"When Waves Become Doors #3"

"When Waves Become Doors #3"

Negro Electro and its twin, Bauhaus Evolution, are only part of what is known as TADAE, a moniker for the Traditional And Digital Artist-Engineer

- Max Eternity © 2007 - 09