Work and Place
Q - Your digital works express a painterly aesthetic with a presence seemingly drawn from more traditional manual techniques. Can you explain ?
A - I consider myself a materialist, not a digital artist. Materials and techniques become less relevant through a fusion of past and present. Like many artists of this generation, I’m a hybrid between modern aesthetics, traditional influences, chemical darkrooms and contemporary digital tools. My work employs crossovers using new instruments with old techniques and vice versa. My initial training and early influences were purely mechanical and analogue. I learned photography sloshing in developer baths. Some artists try to mask the “computerness” of their works, others try to create art that is only possible by using a computer. I don’t venture to either extreme and present my work for what it is . . . a combination of visual elements that communicate my ideas and moods in a method with which I feel most comfortable. The computer remains my conduit for parts of the work but most importantly it is the workspace where all visions and concepts can be carefully nurtured due to the flexibility and power of digital platforms.
Q - So how would you classify your works?
A - I acknowledge the human tendency to categorize everything but I try to avoid restrictive labels. Viewers say that some pieces tend to be graphic or architectonic, others photographic and still others painterly. All these labels seem to artificially compare my work to something else. I’m not sure where I fit at any given moment since I'm not necessarily looking for fluid evolution from series to series. I don’t set forth to create a “graphic” piece, or a “photo collage” or a “water-coloured drawing.” I’m concentrating on each piece's personal identity rather than adherence to stereotypical restraints to fit a particular genre. This reminds me of the dilemma often encountered when filling out online forms with pull-down boxes where you must choose only one right answer when two or three would be more accurate. I'm not like that, my art's not like that, I actually resent being confined to a series of little white boxes.
I'm not the only one having trouble classifying digital art into sub-categories. It's really difficult to pigeon hole digital art because most of us are combining techniques and styles. In my case, grouping is probably easier on a per-series basis rather than for my entire body of work and I try to remain perfectly transparent about each process. How about calling them 21st century mixed-media interpretations?
Q - While conversing with many people at your 2007 solo exhibition in Pocitos, one common thread was that your works were neither aggressive nor abusive even though the themes were very often polemic. How and why do you create that balance?
A - First and foremost, thank you for noticing because that is one of my goals. I feel no need to slap the viewer in the face with my ideas, nor do I want to shock anyone to falsely attract attention if my art fails to do so on its own. I let the pieces speak for themselves, allowing the viewer to delve as deeply as they like and then make their own judgments.
On the surface, I'm not afraid to use either aesthetic beauty or ugliness as design elements and mood generation. Some of my themes center on controversial issues but I don't feel that polemics alone are enough for work to masquerade as visual art. If all I want to do is criticize or complain about the world, I'll write an article and send it to a newspaper or my political representative.
Through my art I hope to achieve much more. I'm not campaigning, I simply want people to absorb the visual depiction of ideas and continue the conversation. They can't do that if they are wincing through disgust before they analyse what's being portrayed. Today's society seems too quick to pick sides, left -right, religious - atheist, classic - contemporary, bomb - don't bomb. I don't see the world as either-or and hope that people with polarized opinions can work together to find common ground and the best solutions for everyone.
Q. Many say that conceptual art is dead, others say that it never really had a life. You've often described your work as conceptual. What are your feelings about this negative reaction to "conceptual."
A - I think it's all a pile of semantic balderdash. Most art derives from a concept of one sort or another. Action painting is a concept. Floating dead carcasses in formaldehyde is a concept. Depicting beautiful birds whistling in the meadow is a concept. Photographing raw expression is a concept. Some call their inspiration an idea, or a calling, or a spiritual necessity, or a search for the purest elemental forms or colors using paint. Whatever mate, they're all concepts. It's also quite possible that artists produce works just because they look cool, or beautiful, or striking. Pick your favorite adjective. The only difference I see is between expressing an idea visually through art or creating a particular interaction of the materials themselves. Both are valid, both have existed for centuries and will continue to flourish whatever the art market chooses to call anything.
Q. Does that run parallel with your opinion of the conversation regarding idea versus technical craft as the epicenter of fine art?
A. Exactly. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't believe that creative ideas and technical ability can be mutually exclusive with fine art unless one or the other is truly outstanding. Put it this way, I prefer artists that have both. I don't deny that a great idea can carry a piece and dominate a space, but I do question the validity of many ideas. Likewise, a truly gifted artist, be it by painting, photography, sculpting or assembling, can produce amazing works with very little thought or meaning behind them. Whether either will stand the test of time is another matter best left for the experts. To me, a solid idea transmitted with excellent technique by an artist or a team of artists will always be prime.
Q - Who are your favourite artists and which do you feel have influenced you most?
A - That would be a multi-headed beast since I don't directly follow in the footsteps of any of my favourite artists since their lives and references were distinctly different than mine. I enjoy the work of many artists who haven't influenced my own work at all. I'm intrigued by techniques and methods even though I have an entirely different mandate. I admire artists who created clear turning points in the history of art, for instance Cezanne and the first wave of "modern" artists who set the stage for a radically different modern future.
- Picasso was years ahead of his time and was consistently excellent in a diverse variety of genres.
- Joaquin Torres Garcia's constructivism created a school that is still followed by thousands of South Americans decades later, as did Rufino Tamayo with his simple yet iconic Latin American imagery.
- I also study some of the major fine art photographers. Cartier-Bresson comes to mind as one who sought profound mood and insight rather than technical excellence. I prefer those who care more about the image than they do about the newfangled coating on their lenses.
- Man Ray was a pioneer in 20th century alternative processes, applying the scientific findings that were developed in the preceding decades to art forms.
- Robert Rauschenberg brought photo image transfers and innovative montage effects to new heights in his mixed media and combines. He has been influential from a technical standpoint to thousands of current artists even though his works are never considered digital art since computers weren't used. Nevertheless, the processes were similar. I find it impossible to visit an art fair these days without viewing dozens of works that owe plenty to artists like Rauschenberg, Gerard Richter and John Baldessari, including my own.
- Julie Mehretu, an Ethiopian artist based in the United States, is doing some extraordinary large format works that are intriguing for me as a process as much as for the finished picture.
- I enjoy experimental artists, those who respect art history's past but also look beyond fads for new forms of personal expression. Artists trying to be different just for the sake of being different bore me, but any artist with a solid idea who is willing to stand up and transcend current norms should be applauded for the effort. Time will tell whether the talent matches the ideas.
- From the digital world, it seems there is a tremendous amount of great talent from Europe. They are the early masters of their medium. Thomas Demuth, Istvan Horkay, Bogdan Prystrom, Werner Hornung, Lucy Cervini, Alessandro Bavari and Jean-Marc Rulier off the top of my head are doing interesting things. There are plenty of others from North and South America like Peter Ciccariello, Dorothy Krause Simpson and Bonny Lhotka who've been making great advances over the past few years in computer art and alternative digital processes.
Q - Interesting point about being different for difference's sake. Please expound.
A - Well there's not really much to say. Back to your earlier question. What makes any art unique and great? Is it the idea or the finished product? I think both go hand-in-hand and rarely consider one or the other to be sufficient for greatness. Many wish to believe that a fresh idea is enough; people scurry around looking for things they haven't seen before. But is there talent beyond the idea to properly produce the vision or is it appealing simply because it is different? The most clear example is Damien Hirst who readily admits to being purely idea driven and produces very little of his own work. Does that make him a great artist or just an idea generator? I don't question who does the work, but I do question some of the ideas.
Q - Where do you feel your art is going?
A - Hopefully in many different directions simultaneously. I feel I’m participating at the epicenter of a fresh and vibrant genre. Most of us in this field see untapped potential that we are rushing to explore. As soon as I feel comfortable with a particular style or technique, that’s when I usually start testing another approach, always searching to find another twist to enhance my visual language. I see very few boundaries. That in itself is liberating and invigorating.
Q - Roughly, what is the current price range of your works?
A - I've sold work for as little as 50 dollars. Most of my original works range from $500 or less for small drawings up to $7,500 for my larger, mixed media work. While every artist would like to earn as much as possible for each piece, I'm proud to say that I've also been able to provide affordable artwork to a new generation of younger collectors by maintaining fair and realistic pricing. As a father myself, I can't help but stress the importance of fine art in every home.
Q - Can we purchase your work through this website?
A - Apart from a few reserved pieces, most of my work has been sold or is currently unavaiable due to previous consignments, reservations, etc. New work will be available through this site in 2016. Until then, please contact us for additional information.