Why Cory Arcangel’s “Photoshop CS: 72 by 110 inches, 300 DPI, RGB square pixels, default…” (2009) Fails

carcangelrgbImage of Arcangel’s art work with the insanely banal title lifted from Heart as Arena who lifted it from AFC who lifted it from Cory Arcangel’s site

I kind of like Cory Arcangel’s Photoshop CS: 72 by 110 inches, 300 DPI, RGB square pixels, default gradient ‘Spectrum’, mousedown y=1416 x=1000, mouse up y=208 x=42 (2009) but not really–I should mention that Paddy of Art Fag City seems lukewarm about it [though as Paddy noted in the comments below, Karen Archey wrote the post] and Brent of Heart as Arena really loves it–and this is why…Jules Olitski!


Clockwise from left: All by Jules Olitski, “Tin Lizzie Green” (1964) (via); “Tender Boogus” (1967) (via); An Olitski from 1966 (via); and “Untitled” (1968) (via).

All Arcangel has done is offer a new (digital) paint job to one of Olitski’s 1960s signature styles. Not that all good art has to innovate 24/7 but just a little would be nice.

Btw, I spotted this description of Arcangel’s “Photoshop CS…” work on his wiki page:

“…[it] addresses the role of technology in determining the way that viewers appreciate art.”

Huh? It doesn’t do that at all. If anything it points out that in the digital age anything from history can be updated and copied with ease (and swallowed whole by sad collectors and bad curators). Sure that’s kind of interestingbut  it’s nothing to write home about.

While I realize that Arcangel, like all net artists, wants to create things to sell (and make a living) perhaps he should study the history of art before making the leap into object making.

18 responses to “Why Cory Arcangel’s “Photoshop CS: 72 by 110 inches, 300 DPI, RGB square pixels, default…” (2009) Fails”

  1. Amy Shaw Avatar

    I think you should tell us how you really feel!

    Also, I agree. Interesting observation.

  2. Paddy Johnson Avatar

    Hey Hrag,

    I didn’t write the piece you linked to — Karen Archey did. That said, as indicated in the comments of that post, my opinions are lukewarm on the subject. I do not share your dislike for the piece.

    Can you explain Arcangel’s connection to Jules Olitski? I don’t understand how the use of a program default has any relationship to a carefully constructed color field painting. Olitski’s work is very labor intensive, and personally crafted. Aside from some formal similarities I don’t understand the connection drawn.

    Also, I don’t agree with the idea that an artist has to study art history before making art. Nobody can be aware of everything, and if it were a necessity nothing would get made. The beauty of repetition is in its permutation.

  3. Heart As Arena Avatar

    This, my long-distance dedication, goes out to you, Hrag.

    And I still say the Arcangel is prettier.

  4. Heart As Arena Avatar

    Hey. Paddy and I were posting at the same time. How perfect is that?

    Also, Hrag, I think I stretched something inside me when I laughed at your caption. OMG.

  5. Ian Aleksander Adams Avatar

    I’m sure he’s aware of color field paintings. It seems like a visual homage in some ways, perhaps it’s obvious enough that he doesn’t need to mention it in the statement. But who knows if I’m giving him too much credit.

  6. Paddy Johnson Avatar

    @Ian Aleksander Adams. I’m sure he’s aware of the connection; artists don’t make work without talking about it. If he didn’t know about Olitski someone would have mentioned it by now.

    As a reference point I should add that Arcangel’s work frequently references art. I Shot Andy Warhol and his Gates gif immediately come to mind, but there are many more. Notably one of these pieces is an object — as noted in the comments on AFC this isn’t the first time Arcangel’s made objects.

  7. Hrag Avatar

    @Paddy Part of the problem in our disagreement probably arises from the fact that I do see the work as a “one-liner”–to steal Jerry Saltz’s characterization of the work. It has very little to offer the viewer outside of the aesthetic on view, which isn’t much in my opinion. Olitski is known for his atmospheric work and Arcangel’s work seems to attempt something similar (the size being a factor here) and I just don’t see what he adds to the conversation. The artist may have another intention for his work but it doesn’t come across IMHO and I don’t prioritize artists’ interpretations above the direct experience of an artwork.

    @Brent Wonderful song…so sad, but alas even friends don’t always agree. Though have you experienced a great Olitski up close and personal? It’s pretty awesome! The Arcangel has that strange glare on the surface that distracts from the color in my opinion.

    @Ian Aleksander Adams I thought about the possibility that Arcangel was referencing Olitski but then I thought that even if he was it was a very shallow exploration of the aesthetic and ideas in his work of the 1960s.

  8. Jim VanKirk Avatar
    Jim VanKirk

    Paddy… I couldn’t disagree with you more regarding which work is labor intensive.
    We are all familiar with how much psychic blood is drawn creating these impeccable digital images. There is even more perfection and more detail in a new car with about the same expression.

    As for how I feel about plagiarism in the visual Arts… I have seen greater examples. Sherrie Levine owes her entire specious career to a linguistic double shuffle and the creativity of others.

  9. Paddy Johnson Avatar

    @hrag I think there’s merit in the one-liner criticism. Karen and I have talked about the fact that so many people have different takes on the work suggests the work functions on more than one level, though there’s something about that argument that doesn’t feel quite right to me. Perhaps it sounds a little too much like, “Everyone is discussing the art so it must be good.”

    For me, the instructions make it a one liner, not the physical form of the piece. As an object, I rather like that its production value stands in stark contrast to most art being made now. It’s a slick, over-produced, 2009 update to a koons inflatable. For me, the work poses as something far more conservative than it actually is and that’s interesting.

  10. Ian Aleksander Adams Avatar

    Honestly, the idea of “very shallow exploration” seems to be an integral part of this kind of work. I mean, look at the title, it’s a direct explanation of what we are seeing. The starting point is that shallowness, but I can’t help bringing my entire history of art and computing to it when I see it. For some reason, they’re very effective for me. But yes, a bit of a one liner.

  11. Ian Aleksander Adams Avatar

    Also, in the context of Cory’s other work, it seems to be that this is a lot more about computing than it is about painting. Or printmaking. Gradients are very familiar to those of us who grew up with while computer graphics evolved. Maybe he simply said “these have a place in art history, no one has put them there yet, I’m going to do it in a commentative and slightly snide manner.” Which is kind of what he said.

    Which is why this confuses me a bit:

    ““…[it] addresses the role of technology in determining the way that viewers appreciate art.”

    Huh? It doesn’t do that at all. If anything it points out that in the digital age anything from history can be updated and copied with ease (and swallowed whole by sad collectors and bad curators). “

    You say “it doesn’t do that at all,” but what you are describing is exactly a facet of what he is saying. The role of technology in determining the way that viewers appreciate art includes updating and copying everything and anything from history with ease. If you haven’t noticed, it’s kind of the internet.

    Right now most of our youth culture is in a relatively retro phase because with new technology it only grows easier to gain access to things created before – more ancient and embarrassing videos on youtube, more scans of lisa frank folders, more eldritch advertising from unknown eras past. While people are constantly creating new things, I think we’re still in the phase where the vast majority of content uploaded and shared is digitized versions of previously existing work, whether copywork of the original, amateur homage form, big budget remake, or unintentional reference.

  12. libhomo Avatar

    I’m surprised this piece is getting so much attention when there was so much more interesting work at the young artists show at the New Museum. Ryan Trecartin’s work is much more interesting and worthy of discussion to me.

  13. hv Avatar

    @Ian Aleksander Adams That’s an interesting view of it. But the Olitski work was also about the role of technology. They were created with airbrush and were very unique in that the “hand” of the artist was all but invisible in the later phase spray paintings. But having said that, your ideas about youth culture are very true but I just don’t agree that the Arcangel work embodies that well. Tigran Khachatryan’s video in “Younger Than Jesus,” which compiled all those web video snippets of early Soviet cinema and recent skater/jackass tricks, seems a better example of what you are discussing than Arcangel’s work.

    @libhomo Agreed…the Trecartin piece was quite incredible. We should discuss that much more. I’ll keep it in mind for my longer review.

  14. Ian Aleksander Adams Avatar

    “I just don’t agree that the Arcangel work embodies that well”

    hahaha, if you’re talking about whether it does anything well, that’s a whole separate conversation. I’ve sort of held off on making any real judgment on it. Effective, yes, but good? I’m not sure. I do think it’s kind of funny, yes, but it’s definitely not the most interesting thing to come out of that show, let alone our “younger” generation dealing with these concepts.

    I just think it isn’t fair to say that it’s far off in conception from what the artist is talking about.

  15. […] and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I first met Artie on Twitter, where he started a fight with me over my critique of Cory Arcangel’s “Photoshop CS: 72 by 110 inches, 300 DPI, RGB square pixels, […]

  16. […] Cory Archangel PSD project Devorah Sperber […]

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