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Michael Bell-Smith, Self Portrait, NYC, 2006 (detail)

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Digital Art
July 26 - August 8, 2006

While the phrase "digital art" used to evoke thoughts of cheesy Photoshopped dreamscapes and clunky animated GIF graphics, it now applies to an ever-expanding, sophisticated field of interactive web projects, mutated video games, and hacktivist interventions. Surveying the current state of Net art, we uncover today's hubs of innovation and interview a champion of new media, Lauren Cornell of Rhizome. As digital artists mine the possibilities of performance and collaboration, we spotlight Cory Arcangel, who creates Nintendo-based spectacles of existential angst, and recommend At the Edge of Art, a primer on new media concoctions. Continuing to cover the more traditional arts as well, we touch on current shows of Candida Höfer's lavish photographs and Mona Hatoum's ominous installations.

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Gehry Designing Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
(CBS News, July 8)
Starchitect Frank Gehry has been tapped for his second Guggenheim building. The designer of Spain's celebrated Guggenheim Bilbao will build an enormous modern art museum in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Named the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the 300,000-square-foot construction — the largest Guggenheim venture yet — will be placed on Saadiyat, a 10-square-mile island adjacent to Abu Dhabi. UAE government officials hope that the museum, said to carry a $200 million price tag, will be completed by 2011, and will serve as the centerpiece for a development said to include housing, hotels, a park, a performing arts center, a golf course, and several other museums. Some have criticized the move, arguing that the proliferation of the Guggenheim name places the franchise in danger of becoming the art-world equivalent of Planet Hollywood.

Canada's Altmejd Tapped for Venice
(CBC News, July 11)
Mixed-media sculptor David Altmejd hopes to bring a little fantasy to the next Venice Biennale. Having recently been selected as Canada's representative to the world's pre-eminent art event, Altmejd said that he might construct a standing giant for the event, similar to the one he displayed at London's Modern Art gallery. The artist added that he might build the colossus from materials that birds can eat. Another report claims that Altmejd will create still more works inspired by werewolves, which have served as the scary subject matter of many of his pieces, including the "heads" he made for the 2004 Whitney Biennial. Drawn to the mysterious and the grotesque, Altmejd names Kiki Smith, Matthew Barney, Robert Gober, as well as filmmaker and fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, as influences.

China's Rich Spur Art Boom
(Bloomberg, July 18)
As China's wealthy watch their fortunes grow alongside their country's burgeoning economy, more Chinese investors are putting money into their nation's art. With Hong Kong sales of contemporary art doubling from a year ago to $35.5 million, and with paintings by Chinese artists from the 1980s that sold for $100 a decade ago now fetching sums in the mid-six figures, China is drawing global attention to its local art market. Most notably, London's Philip Hoffman said he has plans to start an Asian contemporary art fund this year. Worldwide interest in the Beijing 2008 Olympics and recent government crackdowns on real-estate purchases are two factors helping direct collectors toward increased spending on art.

Technology Changing Shape of Design
(International Herald Tribune, July 16)
Is shapeless the shape of things to come? Innovations by the Belgian company Materialise.MGX are making their mark on furniture design by combining shifting organic forms with digital-age savvy. New objects like Assa Ashuach's OMI.mgx light utilizes a pliable plastic developed by Materialise that allows the buyer to shape the lamp in a nearly infinite number of ways. Frenchman Patrick Jouin's ribbon-like SOLID chair and a flexible stool (the One_Shot, which proved popular at the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this year) are similarly constructed via computer-guided lasers that carve liquid resin or polyamide powder into creations far more intricate than is possible via conventional manufacturing means.

Brooklyn Museum draws fire for curatorial reorganization plan more »

Brad Pitt chairs jury on plans for environmentally friendly housing in New Orleans more »

Photography as therapy for troubled teens more »

Metropolitan Opera receives $1 million for contemporary art gallery more »

Inside Jennifer Steinkamp's studio more »

Design heats up on the auction market more »

"Black Factory" challenges ideas about race and identity more »

Luxembourg opens doors of new Pei-designed museum more »

Mass-market painters finding high-end success more »

Leading tattoo artist Paul Booth opens luxury Chelsea studio more »

The Met's new $20 admission sparks a political reaction more »

Dieter Froese, video and installation artist, dies at 68 more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try akreader1 as the username and password.

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[ Net Art Commissions ]


Dorothy Cross / Casey Reas / Paul D. Miller / Arturo Herrera

Confounding critics who have sounded the death knell throughout its development, Net art has continued to thrive as a conceptual medium for artists and arts organizations. A little more than a decade ago, artists began to harness networked technology's innovative and experimental potential. Ever since, the results have been all over the spectrum. Äda 'web, an early pioneer of Net art, featured simple point-and-click websites with text and pictures artfully tossed about the screen. But in subsequent years, Net art has embraced pop-ups and plug-ins, rollovers and recombined images, layers and logarithms to create a new medium of art that is both developed and experienced online.

Established art museums on both coasts, including DIA, SFMOMA, and MOCA LA, have commissioned works from artists such as Jeanne Dunning, Mark Napier, and Paul D. Miller that eschew membership cards and bored security guards in favor of high bandwidth and interactivity. In 2002 both the Whitney and the Guggenheim entered the fray with splashy projects. While the Guggenheim has faded from the scene, the Whitney continues to push the boundaries of interactive artworks in its recent collaboration with the UK's Tate Online. For example, Andy Deck's Screening Circle refashions the quilting bee into an online game where viewers can create and edit screen patterns with the click of the mouse. Golan Nevin, working with Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinberg, explodes the concept of database art and information visualization in Dumpster. Using data extracted from millions of blogs, Dumpster graphically plots the schizoid patterns and unique differences in teenage breakups along navigatable horizontal and vertical axes.

Smaller organizations such as Rhizome, an online platform for global new media art based in New York, and Turbulence, which comes out of Boston, have taken the lead in showcasing and commissioning works with innovative applications of new technology. Turbulence sponsored Michael Mandiberg's Oil Standard, a web browser plug-in that converts any web page's listed prices into equivalent values of U.S. crude oil. For a unique cinematic experience, HRRAAGHP-TING! culls together Internet images and sound files that play off the visual, aural, and linguistic associations of a single word. In doing so, the project collapses the vast Internet onto a single screen.

Net art commissions have changed the landscape of contemporary art by giving online artists unprecedented access to new audiences and established art museums. At the same time, they have leveled the playing field for smaller arts organizations, allowing them to make meaningful contributions to the growth and development of this exhilarating new medium. (SH)

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Bill Henson

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
Now through August 5

  Bill Henson combines a taste for mystery with precise execution to produce emotionally intense, yet removed, photographs on a grand scale. Henson's portraits feature androgynous, glamorously pallid models, or the fringe spaces of cities and towns. His subjects, whether people or places, suggest estrangement, transition, and insecurity. Dim lighting splits young bodies like abstract terrains, shifting them into vague metaphorical environments caught in limbo between innocence and maturity, safety and endangerment, submission and domination. To complement these studies, Henson turns his eye toward the Australian landscape and a suburban park at dusk. Building up light and texture, he transforms the resulting trees, watering holes, and wayward clouds into fantastic, hyper-real illustrations. (JG)

Candida Höfer: Architecture of Absence

Institute of Contemporary Art
Now through July 30

  Candida Höfer has an eye for striking interiors. Born in Germany in 1944, she was raised amid the ruins of World War II during the reconstruction of Cologne. In 1973 Höfer entered the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and became one of a select group of artists (including Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, and Andreas Gursky) influenced by the methodical photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. This exhibition presents 38 color photographs of public interiors such as museums, libraries, and theaters, which Höfer documented in various cities over a 25-year period. What makes the pictures so fascinating is that the cultural spaces are almost always devoid of people, while the presence of humanity abounds. Offering stylish, uninhabited settings from a distant point of view, Höfer leaves us to imagine their past, present, and future occupation. (PL)

A monograph, published by Aperture, accompanies the exhibition. Höfer's work is also on view in a solo show at Dublin's Irish Museum of Modern Art through October 1.


Galerie Anne de Villepoix
Now through July 31

  With natural disasters and geopolitical crises sweeping the globe, apocalyptic doomsayers seem levelheaded these days. The artists of Helter/Helter, curated by Max Henry and Erik Parker, predict a grim future for us, mimicking the excesses of ideological fanaticism and warmongering in their work. Parker's own psychedelic paintings swarm with Technicolor figures and visual references to Islamic fundamentalism, while Johannes Atli Hinriksson's videos chronicle the blood-splattered adventures of clay puppets. Other artists use familiar modes of outrage — Dada-inspired collage, expressionistic painting, and sculptural assemblages — but many experiment with surprising mediums. Encapsulating the sentiments of the show, Dionisis Kavallieratos' expressive installation AAA!!! (Blue) extends from the wall — a dripping, cartoon exclamation of despair. (BR)

Thomas Scheibitz: Casa Amalia Index

Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers
Now through July 29

  The title of Thomas Scheibetz's solo show at Sprüth Magers, Casa Amalia Index, refers to the "emotional architecture" of Mexican architect Agustín Hernandez and his representative building, the Casa Amalia. However, Scheibitz's two- and three-dimensional works eschew literal illustrations of this utopian designer's philosophy. Using pure geometry and flattened color, they allude to a generic idea of residential structure, but as in much of Scheibetz's work, there is no direct connection between title and substance. Abstract paintings depict light filtering through orthogonal spaces created by patchworks of contrasting colors, while sculptures made out of simple geometric shapes suggest fitting maquettes for utopian dwellings, and a wall-mounted bas-relief offers a meditation on the boundary between painting and sculpture, architecture and fine arts. (JK)

Mona Hatoum: Web
San Gimignano

Galleria Continua
Now through September 2

  Born in Beirut to a Palestinian family, Mona Hatoum combines political and domestic spheres in her work. For Galleria Continua's expansive San Gimignano space, Hatoum creates a series of installations in which familiarity cloaks unseen, unsettling danger. The domestic is apparent in small weavings of human hair that reference folk art and craft traditions, while strings of oversize beads lie on the gallery floor like a giant child's neglected dress-up outfit. However, a cage offering no escape and a stunning spider's web made of assorted crystal balls suspended by cables from the building's atrium suggest capture and a grisly end. Hatoum's work is all-encompassing and thought-provoking, and like the glittering, glistening web, its beauty cannot be underestimated. (JCC)

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[ Cory Arcangel ]

Cory Arcangel

Genuinely exuberant but mischievously subversive, Cory Arcangel's many performances, artworks, and collaborations are connected by a love of old-school technology. The artist's interest in vintage pixels comes not from nostalgia but with reference to the common language of early video games, ubiquitous graphics, and internet effluvium that so thoroughly dominates our culture.

In Super Mario Movie, which Arcangel made with frequent collaborator Paper Rad, the Italian plumber loses himself in a series of desolate fields, kaleidoscopic clouds, pulsating patterns, and crunktastic beats, all played live off an altered, hand-soldered Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) cartridge. It's perversely funny to watch Mario endure an existential crisis only to find salvation at a psychedelic dance party.

Other works subvert the newest-fastest juggernaut of technological consumption through collage and absurdist juxtapositions. returns links pertaining only to Doogie Howser, while I Shot Andy Warhol recreates the arcade game Hogan's Alley with Andy, the Pope, Flava Flav, and Colonel Sanders as targets. Colors, currently on view at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, reduces Dennis Hopper's 1988 movie to a 33-day-long display of moving color bars.

Approaching the light, quick genius of writer Italo Calvino, Arcangel bases his work more on themes of play, psychology, and subversion than technology. He frequently posts hack-your-own instructions detailing his process so that, in theory, you too could make Mario dream of thumping lights and colored music. (LC)

Cory Arcangel's video Colors, which is part of the exhibition Time Frame, continues at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City through September 18. Arcangel's second solo show at Team Gallery in New York opens September 29.

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[ Lauren Cornell ]


Marisa Olson / C5 / Alexei Shulgin / Graffiti Research Lab

Paul Laster interviews Lauren Cornell, executive director of Rhizome, about digital art.
AK: The term digital art casts a large umbrella as artists working in a variety of media now use computers in the process of making their work. How do you decide what to include and discuss at Rhizome?

LC: You're raising a question of terminology, which is interesting. Digital, new media, electronic, or Internet art — these terms often overlap, subsume one another, or are used interchangeably. That terms are continually being captured and recaptured speaks to the emerging nature of this field. It's important to note that many artists just refer to what they're doing as art.

Rhizome takes the term new media, using it as a blanket term to encompass a wide range of practices that take emerging technology as a tool, produce it as an object, or reflect on its social or cultural resonance. We are committed to presenting a big picture of the field. However, we do maintain an emphasis on works that deal with the Internet or networked technologies. This is the work Rhizome started with, and it remains a priority; our commissions program gives out grants to Internet-based works, for instance, and our archive of art is comprised of digital works.

AK: How do you exhibit new media art?

LC: We try to demonstrate the breadth of forms new media art can take, so we exhibit it online and also in galleries, museums, or public spaces. Recent examples of shows in gallery spaces are Rhizome ArtBase 101 at the New Museum of Contemporary Art and All Systems Go! at the Scope Art Fair in New York. In both of these shows, we presented works that dealt with technology but manifested in forms as wide-ranging as wall drawings (a piece by Xylor Jane) to software (by John F. Simon, Jr., and Golan Levin) to large-scale, kinetic sculptures (Matt Barton and Paper Rad).

The online exhibitions we organize are important as they nurture Internet-based practice; at the same time, they open up new kinds of possibilities for curatorial practice. For instance, one guest curator, Michael Connor, explored the similarities between blogging and curating, and the temporality of the Internet as a medium in an exhibition that took the form of a blog, with entries scattered over two months. Our editor and curator Marisa Olson organized a show of animated GIFs (a file format that was common in the '90s and has since become a popular kind of Internet kitsch) on a MySpace page, which accompanied a show at Rx Gallery in San Francisco. The artists Mendi and Keith Obadike collected a range of works that explored the different kinds of sound art online. The list of possibilities stretches on.

Online programming also allows for linking to multiple discourses. This parallels a key difference in blogging versus print journalism. Artist and blogger Tom Moody can, for instance, discuss a book on the history of video games and, in the same entry, direct you to pictures of his nephew playing Super Mario 64, to conversations on video games happening concurrently online, and previous thoughts he's had on any aspect of gaming. Of course, print critics can ramble in associative ways, but bloggers can actually take you there. In the same way, online exhibitions can link to all kinds of material: artworks, relevant essays, or YouTube videos.

AK: In the early days of digital art, there was a lot of excitement as artists, galleries, and institutions clamored to get involved with this new art form. The climate has since changed, and there doesn't seem to be as much interest or support. How do you stimulate awareness and assistance for new media art?

keep reading the interview »

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  At the Edge of Art
Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito
Thames & Hudson

A brilliantly designed, authoritative, and open-minded attempt to ground the slippery terrain of digital art, Jon Ippolito and Joline Blais's new book traces the changing nature of 21st-century artistic practice and reception. Ippolito and Blais are co-directors of the University of Maine's new media program, and the two bring an academic sensibility to what could otherwise be a coffee-table book, which means insightful single-page missives on dozens of genre-busting artists that are nevertheless overwritten in a mix of professorial and Internet jargon. Cleverly dividing the book into six parts describing new creative fields, the authors tackle computer code-based art, games, online autobiography, hacktivism, computer virus making and preservation, and community building. The authors are most successful at describing how art's expanding frontiers are stretched not only by familiar net denizens such as JODI and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, but by unexpected sources such as zoologist Tom Ray, who studies digital communities for insights on evolution, and political pranksters like the Yes Men. (GZ)

The New Museum Store hosts a book launch for At the Edge of Art on September 8.

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Cover Art
Michael Bell-Smith
Self Portrait, NYC (detail), 2006
Video still
Video loop, 2:00 min.
Courtesy the artist and Foxy Production, New York
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

Production Editor
Bryony Roberts

News Editor
Greg Zinman

Reviews Editor
Andrew Maerkle

Contributing Editors
Nikki Columbus
Jocelyn K. Glei
Mark Mangan
Shana Nys Dambrot
Allison Kave
Marlyne Sahakian
Sarah Kessler
Laura Moser
Doug Levy

Lisa Cooley
Jessica C. Crombie
Shayla Harris
Jessica Kraft

Anjuli Ayer
Morgan Croney
Jules Gaffney
Lauren McKee

Mailer Design
Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

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