The exhibition’s title comes from painter Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy’s philosophical and instructional Latin poem “De Arte Graphica” (1668), in which the author promotes the then novel idea that painters and sculptors are artists, rather than craftspeople. He argues that visual producers hold the same creative and inspirational status as poets and playwrights. He also prescribes the ingredients of a great painting, in terms of subject matter, composition, color, and style, looking back to the balanced, pared-down, classical art of ancient Greece and Rome, as an antidote to then contemporary Baroque painting.
The evolution of the meaning of the Latin word “graphica”—of painting or drawing—into the English “graphic,” later saw the word’s meaning revert to the artisanal, to a sense of visual illustration and design. In recent years a number of contemporary artists have reclaimed the use of graphic forms and patterning in work that resonates with social and personal signiﬁcance. With inspiration from cartoons, illustration, and digital design, among other sources, their work negotiates with 20th century traditions, including Constructivism, Pop, and Minimalism.
Michael Bell-Smith’s new video, “Podcast Paperwork” (2020), continues his ongoing exploration of what he calls “readymade affect:” the visceral response built into templates, presets and other systems of media presentation. For this video Bell-Smith reworks commercially available templates for Instagram video posts, cutting them together in an exacting rhythm, while reducing their “content” to simple grids and aphoristic snippets of text. Synced to the rhythmic score, created by the artist, the looping movements of the graphic elements take on a choreographic presence, shifting from foreground to background as the text emerges and recedes. These pieces of text operate as poetic fragments, imbued with the weight and anxiety of the current moment while alluding to their original source: the optimistic language of lifestyle branding.
JODI’s “NewMaterialWant” (2017) is a website that generates ever-changing remixes of elements from a database of digital 3D models. Each separate model, whether a basic wireframe or a scanned 3D design, has been collected by a bot from online websites where amateur designers upload their models for others to freely use in the their digital creations. These basic amateur designs blend individual creativity with scans, copies, and variations of everyday items or icons of mass culture.
Cindy Ji Hye Kim’s monochromatic set of drawings and large painting pressurize perspectives, ﬁgures, and ﬁelds of vision, while expanding upon narratives of the gaze and power. The artist’s “Thirty Frames Per Second” (2016) is an animation ﬂip book displayed as separate pages across one wall of the gallery. Recalling Hitchcock’s use of ﬂowing dissolves that are read as one shot, the series of ink drawings has a circulating eye than can induce senses of both anxiety and freedom. The artist’s large painting “Creativity” (2020) incorporates graphite, charcoal, pastel, ink, acrylic and oil on a canvas in a range of patterning that captures all the tensions of the creative moment.
Glendalys Medina presents two drawings from the “Valiant Series” that reference Puerto Rico, where the artist was born, and the culture of its indigenous Taino people. Combining Medina’s vocabulary of stencils, drawings of Taino symbols, and colors that represent the island’s past and present, Medina constructs a patterning that integrates a contemporary reading of the Puerto Rican experience. The artist’s recent “Covid Color Study” series use the same stencils to produce both subtle and vivid variations of color and form that represent intimate moments of inspiration during the lockdown.
Cindy Ji Hye Kim
- — Artnet