Jeff Elrod

Untitled (green screen), 2014

acrylic on canvas

215.9 × 203.2 cm


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Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

photo credit: Florian Kleinefenn

Artwork
Description

The work of American abstract painter Jeff Elrod is based on the combination and interweaving of digital and analogue practices. He first creates doodle-like compositions on computer editing programs, such as Photoshop or Illustrator, and then projects the images onto canvas, and tracing the computer-generated images by hand with paintbrushes or spray paint. In their clash of digital and analogue, his paintings connect the history of painting and abstraction with recent advances in digital technology:

“Elrod’s technique has modified in the past decade as the tricks of Photoshop have evolved – color gradients, spray effects, and even the option of scanning a potential background scrap that he has found in his studio all now crop up in his large-scale works, compounding the complexity of transferring the image onto the canvas in his Sunset Park studio. Nevertheless, Elrod’s mediation still happens with the use of the mouse between him and the machine.” (Christopher Bollen, ‘The New Abstract: Jeff Elrod,’ Interview Magazine, 2014)

Elrod therefore reverses the more typical relationship of authority between new technologies and old: rather than digital prints trying to pass themselves off as painting, his works are conscious painterly misprisions. Early photography emulated painting in order to be recognised as high art, and assuage its own mechanical fears with a highly artificial and derivative aesthetic. Here, however, Elrod uses ‘traditional’ processes to emulate the new – perhaps exploring how the digital is taking over all facets of our lives. Photoshop has colonised art. Keep up or be left behind, he seems to say, in turn fetishising the authorial creative trace in the face of digital encroachment.

The artist calls his computer compositions “frictionless drawings” – through this term he positions his use of digital technology as a way of distancing the direct intervention of the artist’s hand in the production of art works: a “digital breed of automatic writing.” For Elrod, this guarantees a certain freedom, experimentation, and the possibility of expressing the subconscious. This nod to the legacy of Surrealism acts to legitimate the production of digitally manipulated art, and, in a sense, highlights the redundancy of Elrod’s artistic effort and obviously painstaking labour process. He translates the digital through a highly self-conscious process of painting – a gesture of aesthetic transference that is at once Sisyphean and elegiac.

About
the artist

Jeff Elrod (b. 1966) resides and works between Texas and New York. His paintings are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis among other institutions.

The genesis of Jeff Elrod’s fascination with technology rests not in the complexity of digital practices but relies on the aesthetic transference and amalgamation between digital and analogue forms of painting and mark making. He divulges that it was a childhood of first-generation electronic games in the 1970s that led to his integrationist use of the digital medium. In the words of the artist, “I had this total feeling of warmth and security looking at a computer screen, as if I was a kid sitting in the basement on a bean bag playing video games with my parents upstairs.”

Elrod has explored the gamut of technological art by experimenting with a range of digital manipulation practices. Using Photoshop and simple vector based programs to generate free-form images, there is much diversity in the manner in which said images are transferred to canvas. By tracing projections with paint brushes or spray cans (an early technique he still uses), to printing with archival inkjet on paper, to using masking tape to emulate the frictionless appearance of mouse-induced brush strokes. The industrial force of the Pop Art painter has evolved one step further to accommodate the 21st Century phenomenon of technology. Yet despite the clinical nature of the form, the artist’s own hand is never far from the details produced, with meticulous care taken to choices of colour, size and composition.

Elrod’s most recent series of works is inspired by Brion Gysin’s so-called dreamachines, moving lightboxes that are “viewed” with the eyes closed. Designed to simulate alpha waves present in the brain during states of relaxation, the user is privy to intricate patterns and symbols behind their closed eyelids. With startling clarity Elrod has echoed these pulsating, hypnagogic arrangements, with the pastel blotches of UV ink subsuming the viewer in fields of hallucinatory colour. It is in these pieces that we see the brilliance of an artist who has progressed beyond the realms of a simple Illustrator screen to something wholly more cerebral.


“I had this total feeling of warmth and security looking at a computer screen, as if I was a kid sitting in the basement on a bean bag playing video games with my parents upstairs.”

Elrod’s most recent series of works is inspired by Brion Gysin’s so-called dreamachines, moving lightboxes that are “viewed” with the eyes closed. Designed to simulate alpha waves present in the brain during states of relaxation, the user is privy to intricate patterns and symbols behind their closed eyelids. With startling clarity Elrod has echoed these pulsating, hypnagogic arrangements, with the pastel blotches of UV ink subsuming the viewer in fields of hallucinatory colour.


Jeff Elrod
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition