First off, I write this with no discernible readership. I’m not worried. It’ll happen. My doubts are easing as I formulate a working idea for my next steps.
Last Thursday, I went to the LA Center for Digital Art. I was recommended there by Nancy Jo Ward. Her work intrigues me because it deals with so much of what’s right and wrong with digital art, as does LACDA. Her work, with is primarily collage/montage based, is done in Photoshop, which means it’s primarily composited images from disparate sources. The work looks great on-screen. In looking at it, I’m reminded of my struggles with getting the screen image into material form with the same visceral, intuitive feel that resonates independent of the format. I can’t speak for Ms. Ward but, for me, the disparity of the material work (on paper, canvas or whatever substrate) has never had the impact I’m looking for. I’ve long thought that happens because the essential media are so far removed from each other that one will never equate with the other, in terms of the gestalt, the overall aesthetic impact.
The one piece she showed, as a material object, was printed on glass or plastic and that made sense, as that’s the presentation form that most closely aligns with screen display. That really makes sense and the presented work looked good. I believe that when you attempt painterly effects with digital images, it needs to have real paint when it comes to material form. You can use the digital image as an underpainting but the materiality of paint has certain qualities and, in encountering the work, our eye, mind and heart have certain expectations that paint compliments the conceptual effort to a large degree.
From Ms. Ward, I learned of LACDA. Last week, I needed to go to Tijuana for dental work and I thought I’d make a stopover down south and take an evening to do the DTLA Thursday night art walk. The work at LACDA was interesting but didn’t resonate very deeply with me. Further puzzlement came when I went through some of the higher end galleries that also participate in the art walk. The work on display there was expensive and nicely done but it didn’t resonate, either. I’m no longer interesting in pushing pigment, drizzling media or abstract smears. The notion that an open, primal expression of the artist’s spirit is best embodied through expressive or explosive eruptions of emotion on canvas has been done to death.
I have a similar exhaustion with postmodern appropriation, collaging and randomness in the hopes of evoking startling, juxtaposed insights into the human condition or, worse yet, the banality that is human life. That last statement calls my own work into question because so much of what I offer is, initially, based on composited, juxtaposed images. The hypocritical inference in all of this is problematic, to be sure. But, I think it can be reconciled. All art is an amalgam of what came before, blending ideas, practices and experiments that result in a cumulative effort that is unique in its own form while referencing selective elements from current and past practices.
That gets to my key point. What I’m working on is a unique blend of past and present, of visceral, material, virtual and digital, different media that are unified in theme and concept. The bridge between the virtual and material doesn’t happen through technology, as that will always end up highlighting the technology. When all the technical aspects (painterly and digitally) focus on the intangible aspects of human experience and expression, then the resulting work can demonstrate unity and coherence.
So, I’m ready to start formulating a plan. That comes next.