“Very few people will ever see a show of mine in person,” 26-year-old digital artist Artie Vierkant told us. “Even I haven’t seen most of them.” It’s not for lack of opportunities. Vierkant’s been showing frequently, and at well-known venues: China Art Objects in LA and REFERENCE in Richmond both gave him solo shows, and he’s participated in close to 20 group exhibitions over the past year, at venues like SEVENTEEN Gallery (London) and The Center for Contemporary Art (Glasgow).
Still, Vierkant is interested in a wider public, so his work is designed to be seen online and off. “When I was in school,” he told us, “my professors would constantly remind us that the way we chose to document our work was just as important as the work itself.” Since most people will only see his work in JPEGs, Vierkant reasons, why not make the JPEGs something special? In his latest—and smartest, and most beautiful—series, Image-Objects, he reworks photographs of his own shows to ensure that the full experience can only be had on the web.
What you’d see in the gallery, though, is no slouch. Vierkant is an accomplished abstractionist, and in his gradient-based Image-Objects and video works like “Solvent Study – CM Reverse” (2010), he’s shown an attention to detail and instinct for color. In one series, Fingerprints, he seems to have isolated exactly the hue of the purplish floaters that hang out in your eye’s vitreous humor; the result is like a lighthearted James Turrell. It’s those skills, more than any one good year or smart artistic strategy, that has us thinking of Vierkant as the next art star to break into the mainstream. [Q and A and slideshow, after the jump.]
2012 Art Stars: Artie Vierkant
Is there an artist/exhibition/artwork that's had an especially significant impact on your development either recently or at the beginning of your career?
It’s hard to choose but I remember reading this quote by John Baldessari a long time ago and being very drawn to it:
A young artist in school used to worship the paintings of Cézanne. He looked at and studied all the books he could find on Cézanne and copied all of the reproductions of Cézanne’s work he found in books.
He visited a museum and for the first time saw a real Cézanne painting. He hated it. It was nothing like the Cézannes he had studied in the books. From that time on, he made all of his paintings the sizes of paintings reproduced in books and he painted them all in black and white.
He also printed captions and explanations on the paintings as in books. Often he just used words.
And one day he realized that very few people went to art galleries and museums but many people looked at books and magazines as he did and they got them through the mail as he did.
Moral: It’s difficult to put a painting in a mailbox.
Thankfully it’s no longer difficult to put a painting into Google Reader.
Is there a work or show that you have produced that consider a touchstone to your body work?
I’m not sure there was a specific show, but the moment I decided to try to find ways to make the viewing experience online different from what you see in the gallery was important for me. My show at China Art Objects last October was something of a turning point; by that time I’d gotten a good hold of how I wanted to shape some parts of my work going further, so it was very exciting to be able to put work in that space.
If you could exhibit your work anywhere, where would you choose? (Should clarify we don't just mean institutions/galleries.)
I’m happy with how I’m showing my work currently, which is to say that the specific venue doesn’t matter so much as the fact that images become available on the Internet and anyone can access them. That said, my Image Objects series functions particularly well in an institutional setting of some kind, because traditionally they are intended to be places where you can go to experience the totality of a work. Instead, viewing it in this kind of setting becomes a kind of tease for the “full” experience, which is then seeing the abstract variations on those same objects through documentation. This isn’t to say, though, that they are intended for an institutional setting only. I’ve shown them in basements, hotel rooms, apartments, and other more alternative spaces. Increasingly I’m looking at this area of my work as a “use every part of the image” mentality, so they’re sculptures, prints, takeaways, jpegs, they’re the starting point for other image collections (Similar Objects), and I’ve shown production proofs from the printing process as separate pieces in their own right.
If you could tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
Talk to everyone.
How do you describe your work to your parents?
I don’t feel like I’m someone who has a practice that is necessarily the type that is “hard to explain to my parents.” They’re very supportive and like to talk to me about what I have coming up.
Much of your work is about art documentation as an opportunity for intervention. Is there a history there? Do you see that as your brand, in a sense, or just another medium?
There is definitely a strong history there; artists have been dealing with documentation and technologies of reproduction as long as those technologies have existed. These have become so internalized that when I was in school my professors would constantly remind us that the way we chose to document our work was just as important as the work itself.
However this work isn’t just about documentation images—I would find that to be a kind of navel-gazing type of institutional critique. Instead, as you say, intervention might be more accurate. By altering my documentation images I put a huge emphasis on the publicly available side of the work. Very few people will ever see a show of mine in person—even I haven’t seen most of them—and of those people even fewer are the type of privileged individuals who have the ability to buy art objects of any kind. So instead, the pieces are on the Internet or circulating in other ways to view for free and to “own” by simply saving the image or re-posting it somewhere. Of course they’re still physical objects as well, but since the objects and the altered documentation are treated as parts of a whole the physical pieces, ironically, wouldn’t be of much value to anyone without the other versions circulating.
The reason I say “intervention” is because our whole idea of ownership and value is changing so rapidly that I find it absurd that so much of the culture industry still operates on scarcity models. When you can stream practically any film you want it’s strange that there are artworks in major museums and collections that there is next to no way to see.
Why add timestamps to abstract images?
I title my Image Objects with the date and time that the specific file version was saved. In the case of the physical sculptures, this is when a file was deemed ready to be produced (though it likely sat in my hard drive for a length of time before this happened), and then more than likely I may have gone back into it, changed some things, and ultimately saved it again as a different Image Object.
I started doing this because so much of the project involves indexing, tracking, watermarking, and versioning, so I thought it would be helpful to title each work with the moment that image was born. It’s also a bit of dry absurdity: pre-production, production, and post-production are such compressed and interwoven entities now that I feel you can’t truly say which phase is taking place when, much less when an image was actually “created.” So instead the “production” happens the moment the file is finally saved, and it gets this abstract notion applied to it that some kind of labor took place over this image, at a specific time—that it didn’t just come into being.
The mythic painter is supposed to spend all day locked in a deadly struggle with his canvas; what is the mythic net artist like?
I don’t really think of myself as a “net artist.” I think the myth might be that they’re different from any other type of artist? For artists who use computers or the Internet I think too often the struggle we engage with is in convincing people that they can talk to us about culture and we won’t be secretly trying to teach them HTML.
Poor Jebus, never allowed to have any fun.
Apr 22, 2011
At this point I'll do just about anything to toodle around on google image search for a few hours.
Apr 13, 2011