Of course, his early lectures and collaborations also created a lot of word-of-mouth hype. Arcangel’s 8-Bit Construction Set, a DJ battle record filled with tracks made with the Atari 800 XL on one side, and the Commodore 64 on the other, made with BEIGE [programming ensemble] (Paul B. Davis, Joe Beuckman, and Joe Bonn), was a clear hit, garnering a large amount of press (and “dopes” from DJ Spooky). So, too, was The Infinite Fill Show at Foxy Production, a brilliantly conceived exhibition inspired by Mac Paint software that culled patterned works in black and white. The exhibition included over 80 artists and was curated by Arcangel along with his sister Jamie Arcangel.
Given the strength of the work and number of people Arcangel worked with, it’s not surprising his career took off. Indeed, Times critic Holland Cotter, noting this and other collaborative efforts, declared “artist collectives” hot in 2002. Whether or not that was actually the case is debatable—art practice is so diverse I sometimes think any notion of trends is ludicrous—but it did, at least, make people a little more responsive to the fad in question.
In any event, Arcangel was labeled early on as “a talented artist who works with technology.” He’s since become disconnected from the internet community that once inspired him (the reasons for this shift are unclear—the most anyone can say is that this change began roughly after he joined Team Gallery in 2005), an unfortunate turn of events as this, in combination with his recurring struggles with thyroid cancer, has negatively affected his work. His career opportunities, however, remain intact. Part of this, I suspect, has to do with museums that now see artists working with the internet and social media as an easy way to bring in foot traffic. As an established name, Arcangel might appear, from the outside at least, an easy sell to museums wishing to capitalize on the ubiquity of internet culture.
So who’s going to replace Arcangel as the art world’s most prophetic voice engaging youth culture and the net? At present, it looks like Ryan Trecartin has received this title, though the relationship his long-form videos have to the internet is much less about technical fluency—Arcangel’s strength—than it is about creating a dystopic vision of the present. Put simply, Trecartin doesn’t code.
Trecartin’s career took off almost immediately after he graduated from RISD, though Peter Schjeldahl cites the New Museum’s 2009 Younger Than Jesus show as his tipping point. That juncture seems as good a breakout point as any for an artist whose whole career has basically been one giant tipping point. As told by ArtForum‘s Dennis Cooper, he was “discovered” when a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art showed a clip of Trecartin’s movie “A Family Finds Entertainment” to visiting artist Sue De Beer. He’d found it on Friendster. De Beer then told writer, art advisor, and former New Museum curator Rachel Greene; one thing led to another, and later that year he had a solo show at the Los Angeles’s Gallery QED.