Abstraction in the Digital Age
Executed in 2013, Ice Age (Lot 611)
is a bold and brilliant painting by American artist Jeff Elrod. With its impressive scale, palette, spray-painted effect and scribbly marks, the painting constitutes a dynamic abstraction. As exemplified by the painting, Elrod’s work deals with the relationship between the hand-painted and the digitally-created.
Elrod began painting abstractions inspired by graphics and digital imagery in the early 1990s. Beginning in 1997, he began to use the computer as a means to create what he would coin as “frictionless drawing”: this allowed for lines and color fields to exist without the direct presence of the artist’s hand. The result, as seen in works such as Ice Age
, is characterised by shifts between flat planes of colour and an illusory depth. Moreover, Elrod’s work can be seen as a continuation of the history of abstract painting in the digital age.
Elrod uses computer programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator to create his imagery; he then transposes the digital designs onto canvas by using more traditional techniques such as painting, drawing, spraying and at times even printing them onto the canvas directly. As seen in the current lot, Elrod also draws and reworks the imagery by using acrylic paints, tape, and airbrush. As if drawn with a computer mouse, the sinuous marks and expressive lines that span the surface instantly recall the language of Abstract Expressionism; at the same time, the graphic element is similar to the work of Elrod’s contemporaries such as Christopher Wool and Albert Oehlen.
By combining modernist aesthetics with a nod to digital and print technology, Elrod has created a new type of abstraction. As Christopher Bollen summarises, the artist’s work perfectly unites technology and art history: "Elrod favours the mouse, using his hand to create a series of smooth, vector-based, free-style design motifs – the backgrounds of Illustrator – and Photoshop-mimicking modernist colour-field paintings".1 Ice Age
was included the artist’s first gallery exhibition in London in 2013, following an acclaimed exhibition at MoMA P.S.1 in New York earlier that year. With Ice Age
, Elrod certainly brings abstraction into our modern digital age.
 Christopher Bollen, "The New Abstract: Jeff Elrod", Interview, December/January 2014, p. 165
Jeff Elrod (b. 1966, USA) is an abstract painter who produces works that interrogate the relationship between painting and technology. Elrod produces large-format works often using a combination of conventional painting techniques and computer software. The artist’s early paintings drew inspiration from video game imagery and the graphic interfaces of the early 1990s. Later works were produced using the technique of “frictionless drawing” in which a computer program produces the desired shapes and lines, distancing the artist’s hand from the work. The artist has participated in a number of major shows at major institutions including the Whitney Museum of Art (2001), as well as solo shows at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2009) and MoMA PS1 (2013). His paintings are featured in a number of prominent institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection in Washington D.C.