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Computers and Painting’s Identity Crisis


Every new generation of artists, curators, and critics seems to feel the need to protect painting. Reasonable: canvas painting, good for a little more, is basically similar to big-A Art. The painting stands for the angels and demons of art, its optimism and attention, its arrogance and solipsism.

“The Painter’s New Tools” by Nahmad Contemporary in Manhattan shows how far contemporary artists are pushing new media without abandoning the safety of what can be read as art. Compiling 57 works by 31 creators, its curators Eleanor Cayre and Dean Kissick stated that new technologies can no longer undo what painting is all about, while continuing to paint remains defined by the search for beautiful things. Trying to hold two ideas at once, the show embodies a mysterious, ambivalent embrace of tradition, from cottagecore farmlife to Catholicism, practiced by a subset of mostly young, highly-online culturati . Painting is in jeopardy – and so is the conservative desire for the old avant -garde.

It’s true that painting is a technology, and still is. Just as the invention of oil paint, slower drying than tempera, gives artists a revolutionary variety of new effects, the lens and the transistor-photography, video, and computer graphics-bring depth , immutable changes in the way artists, and the rest of us. , see the world.

Hovering brush strokes and vertiginous layering on an emerald Laura Owens canvas apotheosize Photoshop techniques. Ei Arakawa’s homage to Owens hangs nearby: a picture of one of his paintings displayed on a low -res tapestry of LEDs. In a cutting-edge anatomical study by video artist Kate Cooper, the camera skitters through a digital model of the human body, slice by slice, like Leonardo playing with an MRI machine.

Cayre and Kissick conducted a full survey of the ongoing crisis in the painting’s identity, even if the artists themselves felt they were painting. The show is conceptually bound by one part of the artists who have left from conventional painting to digital territory, and on the other the other by the artists who have created animations and unpainted objects, dressed in shoes to painting companies because they go to the wall.

Representing those trying the new tools was painter Julien Nguyen, who had a reputation for using Renaissance methods in contemporary idioms. His digital image of an attractive young man smoking in the bathtub removes the brush and palette for an iPad. The strokes Nguyen placed on the screen can be seen on a monitor, installed in front and in the middle, as a lump of oily, like paint mark.

For the latter, there’s Jordan Wolfson’s pixelated print of Dorothy and her Oz companions. The outdoorsy, eaved frame is aggressively styled with hearts, crosses and a Star of David pendant as well as devotional blurs like “Resistance to God.” The words “GOD IS GOD IS GOD IS GOD IS…” crawled around the border. Despite the use of no paint, the untitled piece combines some of the common themes of the medium: Christian hagiography; respect for the forerunners (namely Ashley Bickerton, a leading assemblage artist in the ’80’s); and enough logorrheic confidence to create abstract expressionist blush.

Kissick is a New York-based critic whose regular column in Spike Art Magazine jumped like a rock between the classical and the ultramodern- from, let’s say, thinking a Fragonard to thinking about NFTs (non- fungible token), all of which never left Frick Madison. Cayre is an independent art consultant specializing from the 1950s to the present. Both have a stake in the contemporary – what it means to live nownot then.

Innovation is not always progress. “Imago” (2022) by Ezra Miller – an artist, art director and web developer – is a washy abstraction that develops in real time on a grid of four monitors that looks like it is driving in a rain. Monet without the wipers. A disturbing black cross passes through the center of the image where the screens meet. Nearby, what came out were not brush strokes but black gaffer’s tape covering the seams. Give me a dusty Rothko in a new media experiment whose physical presence seems slapped and hesitant.

Speaking of Rothko: “Disc Buddie #4448,” an NFT by Tojiba CPU Corp., shows a square screen: a rough, digital cartoon on a thick floppy disk with white hands and doves for the shoes, the words “Rothko Maker 2” on its face. NFT projects like this, which produce thousands of unique photographs by combining sets of characters, push the idea that art should be quick and repetitive. Let the old guard complain about the bad taste. This is “new painting” because even ugly paintings can be good investments.

Beauty is still possible, of course – the exhibit includes abstractions that conquer Seth Price’s wall, capturing painterly movements from industrial processes; Wade Guyton, who paints by abusing inkjet printers; or delicate, moiréd surfaces by Jacqueline Humphries or Anicka Yi. This is one of the wisest updates to paint’s tendency to speak for itself and ignore the wider world. The tone here is devotional, not iconoclastic.

The strange urgency of age is embodied in a 2022 photograph by Jessica Wilson, “Perfectly Clear”-an almost photorealistic 3-D rendition of a hand drawing a squeegee on a sudsy windowpane. It’s a flat UV print of Dibond and one of the smallest items on display. Despite its tart composition, our look on the outside, the shimmering tactic of the blade scraping the soap, reminded us that medium doesn’t matter. What matters is the basic desire of art that transcends the work of life.



The New Artist Tools

Until Sept. 24. Nahmad Contemporary, 980 Madison Ave., Manhattan, nahmadcontemporary.com.



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