QUESTION: Research Nam June Paik’s video work TV Buddha. This may be done via books at the library, URLs, or looking up Paik in the Fine Art Index at your library’s reference desk to find articles in art periodicals/magazines. Discuss how the element of time is used formally and conceptually in this piece. Review other video artworks that he produced during the same time period and discuss the use of form and concept. List the URLs where cited artworks can be viewed.
A print is a two-dimensional artwork that is made from an indirect process: the artist does not paint or draw directly on the artwork, but instead creates the surface that makes the work of art. Most printmaking techniques result in a series of impressions being made from the worked surface that the artist created. A key characteristic of a print is that multiple, seemingly identical, impressions may be taken from a single worked surface. The series of images taken from a single worked surface is called an edition and each impression is signed, numbered and dated by the artist and is considered an original artwork. As mentioned, most images taken from a worked surface are meant to look identical, however, some contemporary artists print multiple images that show idiosyncratic elements and a few printmaking processes – such as monotypes &endash; allow only for a single impression to be pulled from the worked surface.
There are many approaches toward printmaking and as we have seen with drawing and painting, each technical process results in specific characteristics and is often chosen by the artist so as to achieve a piece that exhibits those characteristics. For example, the woodcut print Dance Hall by E. L. Kirchner (Links to an external site.) is a relief print: the artist cuts away the areas of the printing surface not meant to carry the ink, leaving the design to be printed in relief at the level of the original surface. The woodcut process results in bold areas of strong contrast. This type of print has expressive qualities that give intensity to the image. The print The Knight, Death, and the Devil (Links to an external site.), by Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (Links to an external site.), is an engraving: lines are cut into the surface of a polished metal plate by pushing a tool called a burin through the metal to cut grooves. To make a print, the plate is coated with pasty ink, and wiped clean, leaving ink only in the grooves. The pressure of a printing press transfers the ink to slightly damp paper. Examine a detail of the print. The precise, smooth curves and parallel lines are typical of engravings. Thousands of fine lines define the details of the print as the stoic knight proceeds on his mission. Compare this to the qualities of the color lithography print The Seated Clowness (Links to an external site.) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Links to an external site.). Lithography is a planographic printing based on the resistance of oil to water. This process allows for a direct manner of working because the artist can draw her/his image directly onto the surface of the stone or metal plate, so a more flexible line, that holds many of the characteristics of a drawing, can be produced.
As with most artforms, digital technologies have had an undeniable impact on printmaking. Noted in your text, Andy Warhol (Links to an external site.) produced a number of prints that used serigraph (silkscreen) processes to create portraits of contemporary icons. Compare his image of Marilyn Monroe (Links to an external site.), 1962 with his later work from 1985, Blonde (Links to an external site.). He has pulled the initial image of singer Deborah Harry as a still from a VHS videotape. Warhol purposefully made the decision to accent the horizontal lines, drawing attention to their root as a video image and to video as a venue of more recent media icons.
In the twentieth-century we see art take a progressively more interdisciplinary turn: artists are crossing boundaries between mediums, process, and art formats. In printmaking this is manifest in artworks that use print processes in unique ways to print onto non-traditional printing surfaces. Consider how Marilene Oliver (Links to an external site.) prints out scans onto materials like form rubber or card stock and creates sculptures representing the human body. In Domestic I.D., IV (Links to an external site.) African American artist Willie Cole (Links to an external site.) uses a non-traditional printing process of branding burn-marks into a piece of heavy, cotton cloth. Cole uses common household irons as branding devices and as marks of ownership (brand names). His piece causes us to consider issues of slavery and branding, and aspects of racial discrimination that continue in our culture today.
Another art form from which multiples can be produced is photography. Photography is a common part of many of our lives in the form of family snapshots of vacations and special events. From its onset in the mid-eighteen hundreds the camera has been used as a means of recording events. While the original visual recorders, painting and sculpture, are still used to memorialize events the camera is now more widely used to create an immediate visual record of history. Margaret Bourke-White’s 1937 photograph At the Time of The Louisville Flood (Links to an external site.) confronts the viewer with the media-based promise of the good life and the realities of that time and place. Man Ray’s (Links to an external site.) non-representational photograph, on the other hand, is concerned purely with formal aesthetics and explorations into photographic techniques (Links to an external site.).
Photography addresses subject matter and themes that appear in paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints: inspiring and sensitive images of landscapes, portraits, genre scenes and spirituality have been created through photographic processes. Photography also carries images and ideas from one culture to another. African artist Seydou Keïta (Links to an external site.) was a portrait photographer working in the mid twentieth-century. Through his portraits we see the influence that more industrialized cultures had on African culture during that time period. His portrait studio had numerous Western appliances from which his clientele would choose to pose as part of their portrait. This is similar to someone from Western culture wanting to have his or her picture taken in front of a fancy sports car. The association with the object is seen as a status symbol.
In recent years photographic images and photography as a discipline have come to the forefront as an affective means through which artists can comment on their culture. One reason for this is that photography is used widely in everyday family life and in a multitude of commercial venues. This wide use lends the photograph to multiple meanings. One artist who deals with multiple meanings behind the photographic image, especially the mass media image, is Robert Heinecken (Links to an external site.). He has relinquished the title of photographer and identifies himself as a photo-imagist: beginning as a photographer, Heinichen has now given up use of the camera and instead collects photographic images from the media, collages them together in compositions and in conjunction with text. The proximity of their placement causes us to consider the images comparatively. We look for associated meaning. The written text he uses with the images further directs our consideration of the art piece. In his works Lessons in Posing Subjects / Standard Pose #2 (Hand/Head) (Links to an external site.) and Lessons in Posing Subjects / Identical Garments (Links to an external site.) Heinecken has chosen images of pre-adolescent girls and images of women posing in clothing magazines. Through his placement of image and text we consider the affect of imagery in mass media upon our culture and ultimately the affect it has on how we view ourselves.
Photography has also adopted diverse media and formats. Steven Berardelli’s (Links to an external site.) three-dimensional object actually has a photograph developed directly onto a metal plate. Before he attaches the metal plate onto his wooden form, the artist coats the plate with a liquid photographic emulsion (similar to the emulsion on light-sensitive, photographic paper used in a dark room). After coating the plate with the emulsion, he uses a photography enlarger to project the negative’s image onto the light-sensitive plate. He then develops the plate through a series of chemicals just as he would a piece of photographic paper. The photograph is actually printed onto the metal itself, which is then attached to the wooden form. This juxtaposition of two-dimensional imagery and three-dimensional form results in a final artwork that communicates a sense of the uncanny.
Motion pictures or cinema is an art form widely experienced by the general population. It is largely a narrative art form and is a means by which we as a culture have come to tell our stories and record our histories, feelings and ideas. Video is a relatively new art form. And, while still based on the recording of moving images, video art generally utilizes approaches other than linear narrative.
Video artworks can be seen in several formats. A video artist may create a piece that is seen via a monitor, wherein the monitor takes on no special significance. It is merely the technical vehicle by which we see the video image. Gary Hill (Links to an external site.), on the other hand, uses monitors in a different way in his Inasmuch As It Is Always Already Taking Place (Links to an external site.). He explores intimacies of the human body by projecting multiple views of the body each on a different size monitor. Scale and proportion are manipulated, and the barrage of images gives us the sense of intense investigation. Artist Alan Rath (Links to an external site.) uses the video monitor as if it were the physical body, rather than the image that is projected from the screen. The artist causes us to be aware of how real the digital image can seem. Tony Oursler (Links to an external site.) eliminates the monitor altogether in his video artworks. He projects the video image onto static objects. His video installation Don’t Look at Me (Links to an external site.) creates the impression of a talking person. A video image of a woman speaking is projected onto a rag doll that lies on the floor. The projected character carries on a monologue in which she hollers out to the viewers, among other things, “Don’t look at me”. This character is shown to have a dysfunctional personality. The animation and expression of the video attest to the reality of the persona but the inanimate quality of the rag doll points to a person who is unable to take control of her or his life, someone who is immobilized. (Yes, I see Annoying Orange as well).