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Robin Rhode feels, in many ways, like an evolution of the street artist. Born in 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa, he received a diploma in Fine Art from Technikon Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and now lives and works in Berlin, Germany. His works are simplistic, yet evocative, and are very performance based and influenced. He often depicts every day objects in his art, but makes them remarkable through his drawing of them. In many of his performance pieces, he interacts with his drawings, seeming, almost, to make them come alive. This is best showcased by his piece Car Theft (2003, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN), where he drew a car on a wall and then attempted to break into it – unsuccessfully, of course. His work is very reminiscent of street art. The influence of graffiti is obvious in many of his pieces, such as Untitled (From the “Hayward Series”) and Untitled, Harvest. In addition, he uses easily accessible materials for his artwork, such as chalk or paint, and often uses public basketball courts, sides of buildings, and the like for his canvases. This adds to the urban feel of his work. But that is just the act of drawing his work. Since much of his artwork relies on the performance of the pieces, it is misleading to imply that he is simply a type of street artist. Moreover, his interaction and performances are often photographed, and his usually pulls on objects outside of his images to make the images more real. This results in art that is a dizzying amalgamation of mediums and types. His art is as much a story as anything else.

Robin Rhode’s work felt very playful to me, but also extremely intelligent. I found his use of art to tell a short story very compelling. A self-proclaimed “revolutionary contemporary artist,” Robin works with traditional media to create unique results. Instead of trying to use new mediums to convey art, he embraces the limitations of the every day, and turns it into art. His photography is usually a series of photographs showing his interaction with his work, presented in many ways as if it were a series of stills from a movie. His work is not just intended to amuse, though: in Getaway, Rhode reenacts the journey of a runaway from The Slave Lodge, a Cape Town building that once housed slaves for the Dutch East India Company. His combination of tongue-in-cheek humor, with serious intent, is exceptionally appealing, as well as visually appealing. A thought-provoking artist, for certain.


Pipilotti Rist

Pipilotti Rist is a swiss born artist who lives in Zurich and Los Angelos. She attended the University of Applied Arts Vienna in the eighties, and then later attended the School of Design in Basel, Switzerland. She describes hrself as, “Her favorite number is 54. Against taboos and stereotypes with emotion and humor…” She is famous for making videos and art that deal with issues of gender, sexuality, and the human body. This has lead some to call her a feminist artist, but it seems that she herself has no opinion on the subject. She says, rather, that she does because there is so much that can be contained within one art piece, like, “painting, technology, language, music, movement, lousy, flowing pictures, poetry, commotion, premonition of death, sex and friendliness.” Her videos often ether are or mimic super 8 film, and she often alters the color, saturation, speed, and sound. Her most famous works to date are I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much (1986), Pickelporno (Pimple porno) (1992), and Ever is Over All (1997). She has also directed a full-length feature film, titled Pepperminta, which came out in 2009.

Pipilotti Rist is a complex artist. Although she uses colors and textures that should be warm and comforting, her images often seem to be at odds with that. She has done everything but made an instillation of her dancing to music in a black dress with her breasts bared, to an instillation called Blutclip (Blood Clip), 1993, which showed graphic images of mangled body parts. I found myself similarly conflicted on how I felt about Pipilotti Rist – her work was colorful, but often disturbing. Also, the images she presents are often grainy and surrealist. She seems almost to be questioning the reality images show us, altering the world as the viewer sees it. But the results are not comforting; what seems to be normal and calm (if fuzzy) is actually a heavily saturated porno piece. I found her work to be intriguing, but most often disturbing.

Vacation in Italy

Cory Arcangel is a 32-year old American Digital artist who lives in Brooklyn. He works as a “computer programmer, web designer, and artist”, and his website is a compendium of various digital and sound-based artistic endeavors. His work seems to focus on themes and media appropriation, code manipulation, and the fine line between technology and artistic endeavor. According to his Wikipedia page, Cory is best known for his “Nintendo game cartridge hacks and reworkings of obsolete computer systems of the 70’s and 80’s.” He seems to have an obsession with 90s video games – many of his pieces have something to do with Mario Brothers. In one of his pieces, called Super Mario Clouds, he removed everything from the code of Mario but the clouds. In another piece called the Super Mario Movie,  he again hacked Mario’s code, but this time replaced it with his own movie program. All of the graphics were used in the new movie code, but they were now used to tell a 15 minute story about Mario questioning his existence (similar in theory to the game Ergon/Logos).

Of Cory’s many artistic pieces, the one that I liked the best (in theory, at least) was Dooogle. Dooogle is a search engine based off of Coogle that searches anything relating to Neil Patrick Harris. Sadly, however, the engine failed to actually work – it would appear that he hasn’t paid for his domain hosting recently. Of his art that worked, my favorite was Sorry I haven’t Posted. It  re-posts posts apologizing for not having posted recently. I thought it was a clever piece; everyone, at least once, seems to apologize on their blog about not posting enough.

Matt Siber is a photographer based in Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in History and Geography from University of Vermont and an MFA in Photography from ColumbiaCollege. His works are clever, with a sly sort of humor. His work focuses on the everyday; but he goes to great pains to showcase the work in a new, unusual way. He works to draw the viewers attention to signs of capitalism. In the Untitled Project Series, for example, Siber has photographed large urban spaces, and then removed all of the text from them. The text is them placed on a white piece of paper next to the text-less photograph. It shows the viewer how much text bombards you constantly in an urban setting, and how frequently we ignore the excess of information that surounds us. This is a reoccurring theme in his work; drawing your attention to what is usually ignored. He does something similar in his Floating Logos Series, which removes the supports from underneath tall advertisements and other forms of signage. In so doing, he takes something that usually looks normal and, honestly, rather unattractive, and makes it stand out.

Siber’s approach to photographic manipulation is one that I find extremely appealing. Things that would normally be passed by become the focus of attention; he forces you to pay attention to what is commonly ignored. His work is meticulously processed and presented, and his photos are compositionally  stunning. He plays with the line between graphic design and photography. Moreover, his site design reflected his artwork. Clean and simple (very business-like), but with an interesting color scheme and intuitive design. It complimented his pieces well, and showcased his works effectively. My favorite works of his were the Floating Logos series, and the Pulse.

Michael Wsol’s exhibit, “Part of a Bigger Picture,” is not what I usually see when I walk by the Dupont Gallery. I always see variations on the theme of  modern art, be it sculpture, painting, or some type of digital art. At one point, I remember being completely awed by a complex series of miniature kites hung at differing heights from the ceiling. But I had never seen an exhibit quite like Wsol’s. All of Wsol’s designs were done in the general 2005-2006 range, and all seemed to be some form of architectural deign. Two of the pieces were done using graphite, and I think were completely hand-drawn. The other pieces, though, all seemed to owe some of their existence to computers. The silk screen designs were probably scanned into and cleaned up on a computer, and the models were probably charted out in some fashion on a computer.

I found Wsol’s work very intriguing. I have always been interested in architectural layouts and design, and his art appealed to that part of me. I visited the exhibit twice: first to view the pieces naturally and second to write down the names of the pieces and my reactions to them. Everything felt exceptionally clean, modern, and schematized. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. For some reason, the layout of the exhibit combined with the pieces themselves reminded me strongly of Patrick Bateman’s apartment in the movie American Psycho. Excessively clean, modern, angular, and empty. But the second time I went in, I found myself able to appreciate the work on a less… creepy level. Particularly the silk screens of complex, multi-level spaces, like untitled piece from 2006. Also, I noticed some things I hadn’t before: that Pool, on second glance, could also be a light bulb when you looked at it differently. Similarly, that the wooden structure in the center was a) remarkably similar to the sketch Support and b) that the shapes painted on the panels were different: small things, but interesting. They added a layer of depth I had previously not noticed. I would like to see more of Wsol’s work – I am curious if his more modern pieces have kept some of his quirky, angular humor.

Contrast

Balance

Repetition

Emphasis

John Gitelson’s artwork is much more about making the viewer think than being visually appealing. Much of his work has a wry sort of humor; his aesthetic itself seems at its core very simplistic. In some ways Gitelson’s work  (particularly the “Car Project” and the “Hidden Clothes” series) feels like a personal joke inflated to art. But this is not necessarily a bad thing – his humor is fresh and evident in almost all of his pieces. Tied to this humor is a sense of randomness, particularly in the “Garbage Can” project. Watching that project is much more like watching a surveillance camera on youtube than looking at paintings at the Tate Modern. It seemed to speak to a modern world in which everything is videotaped or recorded. While I did not find the project itself appealing, the viewer could understand the message he was trying to convey – which, I think, makes it a successful piece. I looked around his blog as well as his main art site, but the blog seemed to have been updated only sporadically. I was intrigued by his art project “The Sweet Spot” , which seemed mostly to be about making fun of statistics. His diary/note updates were also interesting, but not, from what I could tell intended to be full art pieces. They were more like sketches than full pieces. The blog hosted his ideas, whereas the website hosted the final product.

My opinion of Gitelson’s work was that while I might not always find it aesthetically pleasing, I feel that he conveys his ideas successfully and clearly had put a lot of thought into the presentation of his work. The various book series spoke to me the most. “If I Had A Girlfriend…” was  not very serious, but was clever and original. I showed it to a friend, and we both had fun giggling at its story and presentation. It was memorable for its humor. Simultaneously, it also seemed to be referencing dating websites where you “describe yourself,” generally by saying you love walks on the beach and all that. It was clever as a satirical humor piece. Similarly, I greatly enjoyed the “Dream Job” book. I felt it did a good job of humorously tackling the issues of working and    trying to find  a job. It was easy to relate to, and drove it’s point home very well.   His posters had a similar aesthetic to his books. Generally about a relatively common  or silly occurrence, they make much of a small thing.   He does it cleverly, but I felt that the posters were lacking a depth the books had, somehow. All in all however, I enjoyed Gitelson’s work. The humor (with the exception of his public art commissions) shown through in his pieces makes them enjoyable, interesting, and thought provoking to view.


Digital Art

Digital Art is an complex art form to define, because it is something that is constantly changing and expanding. Digital media encompasses a broad range of art mediums, from film and photography to digital paintings and sketches. Technically, digital art takes the concepts present in traditional art and applies them in digital forms – art with a digital approach. In short, the use of digital media is the digital approach. But more than this, digital art allows the artist an almost limitless ability to experiment with art in its broadest sense. There is also a sort of democratization of digital art, as with digital media itself. There is a greater ease in sharing and commenting on others work then in most other art forms.

Digital approaches to fine art are as a many and varied as the definition of digital art itself. Some of the more traditional digital art forms (certainly, the ones I am most familiar with) are film, photography, digital painting, and the like. But I would argue that digital art is anything that is created in a digital medium with an attempt at artistic expression.

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