It may seem, just from a sampling of current shows, as if everyone is in on the cybernetic act: there is Stephen Ellis adopting the computer screen as a conceptual frame for a new painterly metaphor in his current show at Von Lintel Gallery, and Gerhard Richter, at Marian Goodman, scrambling an old stripe painting to generate an endless loop of digital variations, spawning a new extreme of Op Art with the scale of his printing. These are painters turning to the computer; artists like Cory Arcangel, whose genre is hacking, and Man Bartlett, whose medium is social media, are instances of artists coming at technology from the opposite direction.
Amidst the ubiquity and seeming inevitability of the fusions and collisions of high art and hi tech, Carla Gannis retains the honor (or handicap) of true hybrid status. A student of neo-romantic painter John Walker in the 1990s and now assistant chair of digital arts at Pratt Institute, Gannis is a geek pioneer of manifest painterly sensibility, an artist – in an appropriately but still unforgivably awful mix of metaphors – who gets her digital hands dirty.
Her gallery, Pablo’s Birthday, terms her a “transmedia” artist, a designation that sounds less like an artistic vocation than a sexual preference—fittingly no doubt for someone whose themes and means alike explore bodily and identity transformation under the pressures of hyper-mediation, technologization and social-networking.
And erotic mutation is the order of the day in the futuristic frieze, “Robbi Carni,” that dominates the show. This presents a wondrous array of fantastical characters, avatars each caught in his or her own solipsistic headspace and yet joining a carnival – the operative word for avatars run amok in the absence of their corollary “meat.” Working with Twitter feeds to spin non-connecting narratives, twisting face recognition software to scramble Facebook IDs, and all the while channeling such icons of the analog imaginary as Poussin’s Garden of Flora and Cranach’s Fountain of Youth (Breughel and Bosch also coming to mind), Gannis, it can be said, occupies a mutated working space.
On view through October 13 at 526 Canal Streetprint