Session Title:

  • The Big Bang of Electronic Art: Merging Abstraction and Representation in the Age of Digital Imaging

Presentation Title:

  • Untitled




  • Chair Per­son: Cyn­thia-Beth Rubin
    Pre­sen­ters: James Faure Walker, Anne Mor­gan Spal­ter, Murat Ger­men, Beth War­shaf­sky, Net­trice Gaskins, Orhan Cem Çetin, Mal­colm Levy & Anat Pol­lack

    One of the most pro­found trans­for­ma­tions of the elec­tronic age is the chang­ing re­la­tion­ship of rep­re­sen­ta­tional im­agery and ab­strac­tion. Once in­ex­orably bound to paint­ing, the ad­vent of pho­tog­ra­phy made it the medium of choice for doc­u­men­ta­tion, a split which in turn freed paint­ing to pri­or­i­tize for­mal el­e­ments over rep­re­sen­ta­tional con­tent, cre­at­ing a vo­cab­u­lary of mean­ing de­rived from color, form, tex­ture, and ges­ture, and set­ting artists down a path that even­tu­ally cul­mi­nated in Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ism.  When dig­i­tal imag­ing de­vel­oped, early com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ers of soft­ware en­vi­sioned that this split would con­tinue, but this was hardly the case for the early soft­ware artists, work­ing in the days be­fore easy scan­ning and dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy.  As they “painted” into the com­puter, they found the same unique qual­i­ties of rep­e­ti­tion and it­er­a­tive trans­for­ma­tions that their pro­gram­ming col­leagues found just a few years ear­lier, as well as the abil­ity to add ges­tural ex­pres­sion.

    Over the slow decade in which scan­ning and dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy grad­u­ally be­came avail­able to artists, early dig­i­tal artists took the next step of in­te­grat­ing pho­to­graphic con­tent, jump­ing seam­lessly from Pho­toMac to Pix­el­Paint and back again, even if it took years for the soft­ware com­pa­nies to catch on. As dig­i­tal imag­ing be­comes the ul­ti­mate re­com­bi­nant medium, artists are now dig­i­tally paint­ing with pho­tographs as an­other el­e­ment in their work, just as they use color, form, and ges­ture.  Imag­ine the artist in the dig­i­tal stu­dio, being able to can pick up a flat red or­ganic form or an image of a build­ing.  In this con­text, the sym­bol­ism of the color “red” and sym­bol­ism of “the build­ing” be­come sim­i­lar el­e­ments – an artist chooses to use red be­cause it causes spa­tial ten­sion, or be­cause it rep­re­sents anger, or rep­re­sents com­mu­nism, just as the artist may use the build­ing be­cause it is a heavy rec­tan­gu­lar form with pointy tops, or be­cause it has a pat­tern of rep­e­ti­tion, or be­cause it ref­er­ences a known his­toric site or ge­o­graphic lo­ca­tion. Is this merger the gate­way to both a new aes­thetic and a new pub­lic en­gage­ment, as we in­te­grate doc­u­men­ta­tion of ex­pe­ri­ence, cul­tural her­itage, and sci­ence into our work?