Authentic Forgery/Forged Authenticity

artistic statement

"Bad artists copy. Good artists steal." - Pablo Picasso

That quote irks me. Not because I have anything against stealing. Click here if you think I have qualms in that regard. My problem with the quote is that Picasso undervalued the art of imitation, of forgery. I believe it takes a true artist to be a great forger.

Here is another quote from Picasso:

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

Of course, it should be noted Picasso died in 1973, years before personal computers influenced the way art was created. There is no way of knowing whether Picasso would employ a computer today. I suspect he might, but not in an extensive, hands-on fashion. Computers are humbling, and Picasso was anything but humble. His art was driven by ego. Artists working with computers need to be open to the possibility that creativity is contingent upon algorithmic processes beyond their control. Picasso was a control freak. I believe Picasso's contemporary, Alberto Giacometti, would have loved computer-based art. Giacometti was an ambitious artist, not an egotistical one. He was fascinated by design and process. Giacometti's fame rests on his sculptures, which tactilely honed human perspective down to its barest essence; but he also produced prints and drawings illustrating this process. Exploring graphics on a computer would have taken it to another level, allowing Giacometti to lose himself in the most magical thing about computers: shear abstract processing. Alas, Alberto Giacometti died in 1966.

Keith Haring died in 1990 at the tender age of thirty-one. The personal computer revolution flowered during the course of his career. To my knowledge, Haring never utilized a computer; however, it should be noted that the web first came into existence at the time of his death. The Internet had been around for years, but not the web, which is what brought the Internet into countless homes all over the world. Haring was a public artist, who, I believe, would have relished the publicly transparent nature of the web.

In the early 1980s the New York City subway system became an organic palette for art. Graffiti defined a process, which Keith Haring came to refine, transform, and commercialize. Clearly, Haring wanted to reach a mass audience. He went after that audience by tapping into raw icons that could never be appreciated in the static environment of museums or galleries. Such art demanded to be experienced either in a spiritual space (Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, painted on the ceiling and altar wall of the Sistine Chapel) or in the midst of vibrant street life (Diego Rivera's politically charged murals, which, to some extent, inspired the urban Graffiti boom that helped shape Keith Haring).

Recently, 7 purportedly original Keith Haring subway station tiles came into my possession. "Purportedly original"? In other words, almost certainly forgeries. Nonetheless, the 10 images contained on the tiles (3 of which had images on both sides) were potent. Laurie Spiegel photographed the tiles with her digital camera, uploaded the photographs to my computer, whereupon I set about sampling the images and creating Authentic Forgery/Forged Authenticity, the set of animations for which these words serve as an artistic statement. Supposedly, the tiles stemmed from 1983, a time when the twin pandemics of AIDS and crack cocaine erupted in New York City, especially in Lower Manhattan, where Keith Haring actually did make drawings in subway stations, albeit not on tiles, but on the blank paper in unused advertising panels.

The forger who drew the images on these tiles knew only that Keith Haring made drawings in subway stations; therefore, he assumed the drawings were on wall tiles. This proved a fortuitous mistake in that it added to the imagery's iconic power by lending an archaeological or artifact quality. Time and place resonate in artifacts. The 7 subway station tiles themselves are almost certainly genuine subway station tiles. Can they be scientifically dated to the early 1980s? Under the circumstances, who cares? What matters is that upon casual physical examination, they have the look and feel of subway station tiles from the period. One tile is cracked, a couple are chipped.

In tribute to Keith Haring the animations comprising Authentic Forgery/Forged Authenticity are direct, brief. Each animation consists of 20 frames, with frame durations varying from a 10th of a second to 3/4 of a second, prior to looping. I feel a tad awkward including Authentic Forgery/Forged Authenticity in the Fragmented Animated Texts section of Illumination Gallery because on the surface its 10 animations are scarcely animated texts; yet, deep down, they are, even if not in the original sense of what I had in mind when I first experimented with digitally melding image and text. Here the melding is more abstract. These very words are the text being animated. Besides, Keith Haring himself mixed image and text. Ultimately, Authentic Forgery/Forged Authenticity represents a second launching of Illumination Gallery, expanding my artistic vision both graphically and in terms of my understanding of working in a public medium. Giacometti influenced me in the former respect, Keith Haring in the latter.

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