December 15th, 2007 - January 26th, 2008
Kim Light/LightBox, Los Angeles, CA
Featuring work by: Cory Arcangel, Michael Bell-Smith, Joe Bradley, Ry Fyan, Kathy Grayson, Ben Jones, Christina Malbek, Takeshi Murata, Simmons & Burke, Fran Spiegel.
Kim Light/LightBox Gallery is pleased to present Bitten!, a group exhibition featuring a diverse group of young artists who explore the influence of digital culture on analog form. Pixels and code are a point of departure for these young artists, but by no means an end. Through paintings of digital debris or painterly digital video, these artists are putting the lived, human reality back into digital art. Disenchanted with the traditional digital art that navel-gazingly explores only itself, the artists in this show make digital art that is not obsessed with the digital medium per se, but with a new digital aesthetic and what it means to a lifestyle, not an art style. They want to resituate the indexical mark in this seemingly immaterial, ephemeral, and unemotive genre.
How does this manifest? Takeshi Murata hacks the way computers read visual information and disrupts moving pictures to create sensory, painterly scenes of data distortion and fractured figuration. Humans, monkeys, and monsters slog through and come apart in a beautiful complex pattern of disrupted video. With digital tools and technical knowledge, he painstakingly creates frame by frame an image of both sensitive painterly abstraction and technological fragmentation.
Case Simmons’ digital photographs use the tools of digital imaging programs like Photoshop to accumulate dystopic scenes from his imagination. The repetition and distortion, made effortless by the digital construction, suggests sinister goings-on behind the aggregation of commonplace images. Threatening skyscapes lurking behind tottering towers of consumer waste evoke some of the more sinister qualities of the so-called techno utopia being built today. In collaboration with Simmons, Andrew Burke constructs sound- collages using a database of several thousand short web-appropriated samples. The audio is constructed using a randomizing computer program that creates a final output that never sounds the same twice.
Cory Arcangel uses retro-tech and Dada-esque deadpan to disrupt what today’s audience thinks of when they think of “new-media artmaking”. Cory is a computer nerd first and an artist second, which is to say his aesthetic and conceptual allegiance is to his dork peers and not the history of art, though both inform his work. He is so fully integrated into not only the aesthetic universe but also the mechanics and language of programming to prevent any flippant use of the digital medium: Cory doesn’t make art about “digital concerns” but, being digitally concerned, makes art. . His luminous Mario cloud chapel at TEAM was his first major foray into the art world, making anyone who thought digital was a “cold” medium think again about its emotive potential. Think of him as a sculptor rearranging 8bit chunks of unalterable Nintendo Entertainment System image data into phenomenal bricolage video cathedrals.
Ben Jones is a member of PAPER RAD; an art crew composed of Jacob Ciocci, Jessica Ciocci and Ben Jones. Making painting, performance, animation, music, commix, web sites, sculpture, clothes, dolls, photos and video, plus going on tours with it all, Paper Rad is more a thicket of activity than a gallery art thing—although they have recently exhibited and performed at such prestigious locations as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The group is maybe best known for its amazing comics: some of them merely scanned sharpie doodles with shitty computer colouring or effects, some with oh-so-cheesy rainbow gradients everywhere, trolls, gay nerds, dogz, Popples, and the dialogue all in this early AOL chat room slang or something- whatEVA. You can see them on their web site and in fact, it might help explain everything: paperrad.org, which Cory Arcangel once described as: "a mess of a site: there are one million different colours, table art, animated background gifs, garbage colour blue links, and pictures floating around in places only poorly coded HTML would know about. It is all at once a combination of Rammellzee, jodi.org, form art, Fort Thunder, pure go4it Geocities homepages, and pyramids. Like as if the 1990's, extreme sports, and My Little Pony finally decided to have a party for peace." Paper Rad is the closest thing to what you might call “grass roots digital art “ on the planet.
Christina Malbek is a new Danish artist exhibiting for the first time in the United States. Her sweeping canvasses of glowing, deconstructed landscapes use digital detritus to evoke simultaneity of time and place. Glowing edges, faltering resolution, inverted colours, and leftover pixels layer up in her large, handmade airbrush paintings. How do images get fucked up during digital manipulation? What is a bit of image really composed of and how does it leave a trail over time? Seascapes and forests are submitted to this inquiry, with surreal and disturbing results.
Ry Fyan’s paintings are frequently mistaken for collages, as their insanely precise photorealistic execution of various post-consumer debris are even more realistic looking then their media references. Often with suggestively incisive critiques of the cultural, the smallest moments in Ry’s paintings often carry very big ideas. There is something redemptive in his urge to fish poetic and timeless ideas out of the morass of contemporary ugliness; while the technique of painting features digitally inspired cold repetition of photographic-looking elements, peeking out from every troubled surface is some natural environment or hopeful face. If the beauty of his images is hard to capture in reproduction, that is part of the point, to make beautiful objects that aren’t iterable, that are solid objects standing apart from capitalist production, independent because there is just one and it must be visited in real time. Two paintings included in a Rivington Arms group show, "Don't Be Scared", in the summer of 2002 introduced everyone to his innovate aesthetic, and multiple paintings and drawings in successful group shows have kept everyone fascinated as he prepares for his debut solo show of new paintings at Perry Rubenstein in 2008.
Joe Bradley’s minimal men immediately suggest the world of early video gaming. Walking into a gallery and being dwarfed by eight-foot 8-bit dudes fulfilled many a viewer’s childhood fantasy. But Joe’s aesthetic project is much larger than this: Joe is a minimal man to the extent that he is interested in the least amount of action or work required to turn his materials into an artwork. In one exceptional recent series, he explores how pared- down he can make an arrangement of coloured rectangles and still have it read as a figure, or how changing the shape of one square slightly makes a standing man “run”. In this way he plays with the gestalt of human perception in addition to the cultural norms of perception that differentiate “materials” and “artwork”. In the middle of an art moment characterized by folky figuration and ramshackle expressionism, Joe’s colourful quadrilaterals and refined compositions might be all the more radical. He shows with Peres Projects in Berlin ity.
Francine Spiegel’s soupy, sloppy women protrude from and are engulfed by popslime piles. Rapper’s girlfriends, socialites, and pin-up girls are all thrown into the stew of mylar, goo, glitter, and chewing gum. Their glammy/gory juxtaposition, coupled with the analog and digital moments other distortions, presents an interesting visual conundrum of seduction and repulsion to these primordial females.
Michael Bell-Smith is a Philadelphia based artist originally from Maine who majored in semiotics at Brown. His videos are spare, meditative pieces that feature landscapes, cityscapes, and oblique social commentary. Anti-narrative and somewhere between silent cartoon and moving painting, his works betray his interest in "digital folk art", or, the handmade, hand-drawn things that pop up on the internet, whether animated GIFs, Photoshop paintings, or flash animations. In Action Hack, we find ourselves in the center of a perpetually exploding vortex, whose hand-drawn but digitized washes of color create an odd vacuum in the room. In Glitter Grade, the viewer looks down on a sparkling downtown LA, with mini snowflake shapes constantly popping in front of a smog-orange night sky.
Kathy Grayson mines her personal history of early encounters with nascent digital technology in her pixel- pointillist photo album on canvas. Having internalized the early video game aesthetic and seeking to explore her developmental relationship with the digital, Kathy juxtaposes the innocence of child’s play with the forms and logic of Atari and Nintendo. Pushing against this is the lush painterly aspect of the images, and a complex surface highlighting its handmade beauty.