Press Release

Joseph Nechvatal                                 retinal art revisited: stOry Of the eye                                  September 4th - 29th, 2010



A pioneer in the development of digital art, Joseph Nechvatal will present, in a second solo show at the gallery, a series of new paintings, most of which are accompanied by a digital video. Retinal Art Revisited: Story of the Eye will take place from September 4th till September 29th, 2010 and will invite the spectator to reflect on the importance of the relationship between audio and visual noise in the process of creation.

Nechvatal has worked with electronic images and information technology since 1986. His computer-assisted paintings turn images of the human body into pictorial units that are then transformed by IT viruses. This contamination of the tradition of painting on canvas by new digital technology thus creates an interface between the virtual and the real, which Joseph Nechvatal calls viractual.

It was back in 1991, while working at the Louis Pasteur workshop in Arbois and at the Royal Saltworks of Arc and Senans that Nechvatal and Jean-Philippe Massonie developed a program of IT viruses. In 2001 Joseph Nechvatal and Stéphane Sikora combined the initial IT virus project with the principles of artificial life, in other words creating systems of synthesis that reproduce the behavioural characteristics of living systems. In his previous series of paintings, the fermentation of artificial life was introduced in an image. This population of active viruses then grew, reproduced and propagated within the space of the picture, and the artist then froze a specific moment that he later turned into a painting. Were the artist to not interfere, the process of propagation would continue until the complete destruction of the original picture.

The Retinal Art Revisited: Story of the Eye series consists of 15 digitally assisted paintings (10 of which have accompanying videos). A group of paintings portray the retina of human eyes bracketed and centred by paintings-animations that investigate the lips of the human rectum. With the eye as the “highest input valve on the human desiring-machine” and the rectum the lowest, Joseph Nechvatal plays with the possibility of harmonizing them. The videos that accompany the paintings show a projection of the computer virus eating the same image that is on the painting. This approach is relatively new, with a progenitor work exhibited in 2004 at the Digital Sublime show at MOCA in Taipei.

Joseph Nechvatal reminds us of (and opposes at the same time) Marcel Duchamp’s prejudice that visual art (and beauty in general) cannot (or shouldn’t) arouse intellectual dialogue between the artist and the spectator. Also, by associating paintings with videos, he evokes another question that seems to be at the core of this new body of work: “On a planet that is increasingly technologically linked and globally mediated, how might visual noises break and reconnect in distinctive and productive ways within practices located in the world of art and thought?” The notion of noise that not only strengthens unique personal powers of imagination and critical thinking through a beautiful self-perception but also as a source of creation in itself, is a key element in the understanding of the new series of works exhibited at Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard.

Joseph Nechvatal’s work is in many major private and institutional collections around the world. An interview of the artist will accompany the exhibition.