Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Artist Post:Tony Robbin

Tony Robbin is a local American artist (a native of Washington D.C) who combines influences as wide-ranging as modern physics and the cubist movement. He has participated in over 100 group art shows, and has had over 25 solo exhibitions since debuting his artwork in 1974. Through his two dimensional digital drawings, Robbin attempts to create visual representations of four dimensional space. Robbin has also attempted to depict four-dimensional space through three dimensional sculpture, although he is best known his digital drawings. Robbin was actual a forerunner for the computer visualization of four-dimensional geometry, and holds the patent for "Quasicrystal" software, which he employs in many of his two and three dimensional works. He also lectures extensively on a variety of topics, including architecture, engineering, computer science, physics, mathematics, and art.  Robbin has also published several books on his interdisciplinary approaches to mathematics, art, and digital technologies.

Robbin is considered a member of the only art movement of the post-modern era, known as pattern and decoration, or P&D. The movement was a contemporary reaction against Minimalism, and followed a "more is more" philosophy, focusing on highly saturated colors, complex patterns, and graphic images. While many other members of this movement employ more traditional media, such as painting and printmaking, Robbin's work integrates nicely with that of his contemporaries. Many other members of the P&D movement drew inspiration extensively from folk art, in particular, fabrics, in their artwork. Robbin's works reference and draw influences from similar backgrounds, including geometric Persian motifs, Japanese silk kimonos, and other textiles.

I find Robbin's works aesthetically pleasing and visually interesting; the line patterns and vast array of colors keep the viewer's eye moving, and the ornate compositions of geometric shapes are impressive. Robbin's pieces are also excellent examples of seamless integration of digital technology into art; the drawings have a painterly, hand drawn feel to them, which keeps the jagged angles and lines from feeling artificial and forced. However, though the concepts behind Robbin's works are fascinating, viewed as a whole, his body of art strikes me as somewhat repetitive. While Robbin has dabbled in sculpture, his three dimensional work is extremely similar in subject matter and composition to his drawings, and does not offer any more intriguing innovations. Considering his career as an artist spans over 40 years, his subject matter and methods of depiction remain quite static. I would be really interested to see any of Robbin's works in other medias, or even pieces with varying subject matter and compositions. Despite this, I think Robbin's works are for the most part very successful, and very engaging for the viewer. His balancing of color and detailed geometric figures is especially impressive.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Copyright Symposium Summary

 I found much of the information discussed by Dr. Kenneth Crews during the morning session of the symposium to be quite informative and applicable to daily life, more so than I had expected. I was also surprised by the complexity of copyright issues; how much protection should be granted an original work, what constitutes fair use, the transfer of copyright to museums, buyers, etc. I also had no idea that so many items, such as personal photos and notes, could be eligible for copyright, or that copyright is granted instantly to any original work of authorship, and lasts well beyond the extent of the creator’s lifetime. The symposium made it very clear that copyright was a sticky, often indefinite subject. As Dr. Crews said again and again during the lecture, “it depends” on circumstance what constitutes copyright infringement, and sometimes a conclusive decision is extremely difficult to reach.  

Many of the the subtopics Dr. Crews discussed were especially applicable to academia and the use of copyrighted information for learning purposes. I found it interesting that in issues of copyright infringement, Courts were more likely to protect more creative works such as poetry as opposed to more fact-based works such as textbooks, as facts and hard data are not protected by copyright laws. As I have had many teachers and professors draw from outside sources for educational purposes in high school and college, I am now curious as to how many of these instances may have actually constituted copyright infringement. I was glad that Dr. Crews also drew from a variety of recent court cases, some of which he had personally been involved in, to illustrate some of the copyright infringement concepts discussed. Perhaps my biggest take away from Dr. Crews’ lecture was that we often are unaware of whether or not our use of sources is actually a violation of copyright laws. Because of this, having a better understanding and knowledge of copyright issues is a very useful life skill, especially in an academic environment such as St. Mary’s.

I think I will find much of what Dr. Crews discussed applicable to the work I do as a college student, both in academic and artistic forums. While I think I’ve done a good job of including citations in papers and other major assignments in the past, for small assignments in which citations are not necessary, this is not the case. I think Dr. Crews’ talk has convinced me to be more cognizant of citing the sources I use, even for minor assignments. Remaining aware of my use of sources in artistic works, especially in cases where I may draw from reference photos or works by established artists, is also an issue in my work as a college student that Dr. Crew’s discussion of copyright  shed light on. Dr. Crew’s ending point, that we should try to be responsible and reasonable in our use and citation of copyrighted sources, is one I hope I can now more adequately abide by. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Artist Post

Artist Biography: Harold Cohen

081005.41 (2008)
Harold Cohen is a British digital artist, most renowned for his creation of the software program AARON during the 1970's. The AARON software program creates original artistic images. AARON initially drew simple abstractions, which increased in complexity as Cohen improved the software. During the 1980's and 1990's, AARON's improvements in software allowed for more representational works including plants, figures, and interior scenes. In more modern pieces, such as the work featured above, AARON has returned to abstraction, this time in color. 

While Cohen does not manipulate AARON's drawings,  he added color to some of AARON's early works and in some cases, blows up AARON's drawings to create large scale paintings and murals. Cohen hand-codes all of AARON's software, and will occasionally do so to "teach" AARON new artistic styles. While technically Cohen is the creative agent behind AARON's works, he does not directly produce the pieces, the software does.  

These images raise the question: if AARON is not making art, what is it doing? While arguably AARON is simply following Cohen's codes, Cohen disagrees.  In an article entitled, "The further exploits of AARON, Painter", Cohen argues that AARON's creations differ very little from "real" works of art, and describes AARON's developments in style as an "artist". 
Standing Figure with Decorated Background (1993)
Some critics denounce AARON's works as hard and narrow, totally dependent on Cohen's codings for styles and variations of forms. I think such criticisms miss the point. In creating the AARON software, Cohen challenged the definition of art. Does a work have to be human-made or manipulated to be considered art? If so, how do we classify AARON's productions? Personally, I find AARON's works aesthetically pleasing, but their real value lies in their philosophical meaning.  In playing with our personal and societal definitions of art, Cohen's conceptual artwork, AARON, succeeds admirably.