By La Rocco, Claudia
Art Business News , Vol. 28, No. 13
"Tangled Bank," a suite of 12 digital images by artist Frank Gillette, hangs on the white walls of the New York gallery Universal Concepts Unlimited. The two-year-old gallery, which focuses on artists working with digital technologies, is the perfect setting for Gillette's work, whose slick surfaces and metallic colors resemble lunar landscapes or oil pooling in water.
Universal Concepts is something of a pioneer in the world of digital fine art galleries. "It's exciting, almost like a renaissance--science and technology merging with art" said Marian Ziola, executive director of Universal Concepts, on the rise of digital art. "This is new territory."
Indeed, the newness of digital art is perhaps its only quality not up for debate. Everyone, it seems, has a different take on where it is heading and what impact it will have on the traditional art world. From self-published, self-taught artists like Max Gould, who believe digital art will render traditional methods of creation obsolete, to museum curators who refuse to add it to their collections, no one is without an opinion.
However, one thing is certain: The established art world is becoming increasingly accepting of digital art. Stereotypes--that digital art is cold, commercial looking and illegitimate--are lessening. Digital printing has become commonplace and, while interactive art is still largely dismissed, art created or manipulated on a computer is becoming just another art form, taught at respected art schools and exhibited in major museums. These developments offer proof of the widening recognition of digital art, and though people continue to question aspects of the genre, it is difficult to find anyone who still dismisses it as a passing fad.
Acceptance of Digital Art
Digital artists have been fighting for acceptance since the 1960s when artists such as Gillette and Robert Rauschenberg began experimenting with digital technologies. But now it seems their time has finally arrived. This past year, a handful of prominent museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, have held major digital art exhibits. Also in New York, plans are in the works for the construction of Eyebeam, the city's first museum of art and technology.
Marilyn Kushner, curator of Prints and Drawings at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and organizer of the museum's recent show, "Digital: Printmaking Now" which examined digital computing within the context of printmaking, believes attitudes about digital art are changing as people see more and more of it.
A Sign of the Future?
Galleries are becoming more accepting of the medium as well. In fact, some believe the traditional art world as we know it is a thing of the past, and the future lies with digital art.
Take Kevin Mutch, for example, the director of POD (Print on Demand) Gallery, an online gallery with thousands of original, digitized images available for sale in a variety of sizes and mediums. His site, which is divided into nine sections, contains one called POD Digital, which showcases original works of art created--partially or wholly--through digital means.
A painter in the early 1990s, Mutch, like many artists, became aware of digital art at a time when computers were becoming both affordable and technologically sophisticated. Around 1991, Mutch bought a computer for $7,000, a machine "incredibly primitive by today's standards but already capable of making photographic images." He hasn't touched a paintbrush since.
From this personal revolution, Mutch is hoping to also transform the traditional art market, which he views as a "dying system" consisting of an extremely small number of extremely wealthy people. He contrasts this with the much larger, yet much less expensive market for new music.
"I'm from a small city in Canada, literally the middle of nowhere," explained Mutch, "But I could get music from anywhere in the world for just $10, could have a direct experience with the work in a way that I couldn't do with art--that's the greatest promise of working digitally . …