Is the Art World Ready for Computer-Generated Digital Art?

By Watson, Lisa Crawford | Art Business News, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Is the Art World Ready for Computer-Generated Digital Art?


Watson, Lisa Crawford, Art Business News


We've welcomed it into our corporations and classrooms, our kitchens and our cars, but one question remains:

Is the Art World Ready for Computer-Generated Digital Art?

New York artist Raymon Elozua separates historical paintings into their constituent parts and then reassembles them into a new composition. Taking, perhaps, the yellow from one and the red from another, he creates not a collage, but a blending, a merging of elements and color to create art, which is, well, quite original.

His tools are not brushes, his medium is not paint. In fact, less by choice and more by design, he uses the computer to produce his artistry. It appears to be the only vehicle that will render his vision.

California artist Corinne Whitaker has replaced her easel with a pair of computer monitors which she works from a stylus that serves as her brush against the electrostatic tablet that is her canvas. Much like a physician performing arthroscopic surgery, the artist's hand moves across a remote slate, while her eyes study the image emerging across the screen.

Color is vivid against her phosphorescent canvases on which the dance between lights and shadows moves in the tradition of abstract expression. Beyond this, any tradition in this medium has yet to be established.

Acceptance precedes establishment. Before we go naming a school after computer-generated art, inquiring minds want to know, "Is it art?"

More than one eyebrow has been raised in traditional art circles by the images yielded in this brash new arena of computer technology that is "boldly going where no man has gone before."

We've welcomed it into our corporations and classrooms, our kitchens and our cars, but are we ready or willing to accept computer-generated or digitally created art into our collections?

What is art? Must it be rendered "the old-fashioned way," with pen and ink, brush and paint, chisel and stone to be worthy of artistic merit? If generated by computer, wherein lies the original article? Are there limited editions or merely unlimited copies? Where are the rules, the regulations, the boundaries, the values?

Actually, we've been here before. We asked these same questions with the advent of another mechanical tool--the camera--to generate art. Must the image be hand rendered to be considered fine art? Is the original the negative or the first print? Which does the collector receive? What if it is manipulated? Are editions limited? Is it worth collecting? Photography continues to pay its dues to belong to the society of fine art.

"I was, for many years, a fine art photographer," said Whitaker. "I worked very simply then, with one camera. When I began, I spent six months learning the technical aspects of the camera not because I was fascinated, but so I could put it behind me and focus on the visual aspect of photography. I couldn't have told you what f-stop I was using. Similarly, I'm not the least bit interested in megabytes. My goal is to say something about being human; the computer is simply a fabulous tool to help me do that. If you can't say it with a brush, you won't say it any better with a computer."

Whitaker believes that, although digital art is in its infancy, it will have a tremendous impact on the publishing arena and the collectability of art.

"The original idea is in the artist's head," she said. "Regardless of the medium, we won't convey anything to anyone unless we render it. All of my pieces are originals. I make one print, and then I don't make any others. I would print one or I would print millions and drop them out of a helicopter over New York City. Anything in between would be a waste of time."

Elozua, however, believes the computer file is the original art from which editions are printed. If the artist doesn't allow the file out of his possession, the original remains his.

"I think the output is secondary," he said. …

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