Private Collection, USA
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Christine Paul quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, 2011, p. 11.
Immaculately fabricated in 2013 using the highest quality printing techniques available, the present work belongs to Cory Arcangel’s Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations: pseudo-Abstract Expressionist colour-fields created using the world’s most ubiquitous photo-editing software. With the advent of the digital revolution and the ready availability of such programs since the early-2000s (no less proliferated by the easy availability of illegal downloads), Photoshop has come to occupy the domain of both amateur and professional alike. Indeed, for Arcangel, this software perfectly encapsulates the do-it-yourself attitude that advancements in information technology has inspired. Via a practice that adopts these technological tools or products, Arcangel explores the juncture between high-tech and DIY and in so doing blurs the realms of fine art and pop culture.
The exceptionally long title of the present work is in fact the list of instructions through which Arcangel created his colour gradient image in Photoshop. Upon opening Photoshop Creative Studio and stipulating the physical dimensions of the document/artwork in inches, dictating the ratio of pixels per inch, and moving the mouse as per the coordinates and gradient pre-sets (i.e. Blue-Yellow-Blue and Spectrum) anyone with a modicum of Photoshop expertise can instantly replicate Arcangel’s pseudo-Ab Ex compositions. And this is precisely his point. By titling his work in this candid matter of fact manner, Arcangel dispels mythology and mystery, transforming the angst-ridden labour of twentieth-century genius painters into an easily achievable twenty-first-century computer simulation. As outlined by Whitney Museum of American Art curator, Christine Paul: “The Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations combine ‘dirt style’ design – the quick and dirty, degraded aesthetic of the hobbyist, amateur, and geek – with the precious quality of an original art object” (Christine Paul quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, 2011, p. 7). Moreover, by making his works and methods available online he remains faithful to open source culture and thus begs the perennial question concerning value of the art-object. Arcangel’s is a computer enhanced Duchampian practice: he takes on the ideology of the readymade and upgrades it using high-tech tools.
As within Arcangel’s practice at large, the Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations can also be viewed as a comment on the short lifespan of new technologies and their inevitable obsolescence. Indeed, where this series was initiated in 2008 with the intention of using the most cutting-edge printing techniques, continuing technological improvements dictate that eventually there will no longer be anything impressive about the Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations’ facture. Arcangel’s installation piece, Various Self Playing Bowling Games (2011), forcefully delivers this point. Comprising a chronology of large scale projections of bowling video games from the late 1970s to the 2000s – hacked by the artist to self-bowl purely gutter balls – this work juxtaposes the inevitable failure of the game player with a sequence of increasingly sophisticated, yet by today’s standards outmoded, computer graphics. This piece is a masterful continuation of the endless Mario clouds that garnered the artist initial international acclaim. For Arcangel, the limited life-span of a computer graphic and unavoidable failure of the game player posits an allegory for the obsessions of contemporary culture itself: “I have found the repetitive failure of a poorly rendered 3-D human figure bowling to somehow be an apt metaphor for our culture’s bizarre fascination with technology” (Cory Arcangel quoted in: ibid., p. 5). In using video games, YouTube videos, computer programs and technological tools such as Hewlitt Packard printers, Arcangel plays the part of Duchampian-hacker, trolling technological readymades and subverting their programs to create ingenious and thought provoking artworks that highlight contemporary culture’s obsession with technology.
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