2111 Mission Street
Suite 401
San Francisco 94110

Recent Paintings
New work by Chris Dorosz

November 14th - December 8th, 2003

Between the Virtual and Material in Reality
Recent Paintings by Chris Dorosz

With the rise of digital technologies, the temptation has grown nearly irresitable to declare the art of painting dead once and for all. Even photography – whose mechanical processes have certainly posed their challenges to, and transformed the work of painters – still entails the physical interplay of light and film that digital media supersede in their translation of all experience into the ones and zeros of “virtual reality.” While resisting the opposite and equally strong temptation to cling defensively to conventional notions of objectivity, Chris Dorosz challenges this all-too-fascile cliche of post-modernity by exploring the material, analog properties of digital culture with paint. For Dorosz, paint presents the obstinant persistence of physical reality in an age striving towards the ether of digital abstraction.

In the 2001 - 2002 installation, “Virtual Ecstacy” – mounted firstly at SFGenArt’s New Fangle exhibition in San Francisco and then at The Eye Level Gallery in Halifax, N.S. – Dorosz digitally enlarged a 12 by 48 inch free-hand painting of traders on the New York Stock Exchange (presumably speculating on the over-inflated technology stocks of the late 1990’s NASDAQ) to a commanding 10 by 27 feet. In front of the billboard-sized image, he then taped the original painting to the floor, performatively calling into question the place and value of painting in the modern world, as viewers either worked to negotiate the obstacle presented by the painting, or simply walked over it in their enthrallment to the digital image. The surface of the billboard-sized image both exaggerated the physical properties of the painting under the microscope of digital enlargement, and obscured them beneath the dead, flat surface of the poster reproduction. The image seemed to insist: you can look – but don’t touch! And raised the question: is this frustrating, or is it the essence of pleasure provided by the picture, that the traders too seem to enjoy? Their mouths are open and their hands waving, like adolescent fans worshiping a pop-idol, in pursuit of a fantasy (perhaps specifically the bubble of the “new economy”) that could only be sustained at the expense of its own material conditions.

Dorosz continues this exploration of the ecstacies of synthetic culture, and the tensions that they entail between the virtual and material worlds in his paintings of pornographic images on the internet – which include the computer screen and keypad that frame them – and in his paintings of scenes from gay nightclubs in San Francisco. Like Cronenberg’s Videodrome, Dorosz’s paintings of internet porn present a pleasure that seems to be taken from the medium itself, and the detached disembodiment that it allows, while simultaneously giving that pleasure a new body in the paint itself. His nightclub paintings present rooms full of shirt-less men – a sweaty mass of throbbing bodies – similarly as disembodied. Dorosz has used photoshope to distill them to paint-by-numbers abstractions and incompletely filled them in with color and paint. As distinct from Warhol’s paint-by-number paintings, however, Dorosz does not seem to be interested in the medium as kitch. In the incomplete rendering of these mechanically abstracted images, Dorosz rather seems to be sincere in his fascination with the scenes, which he sees as already synthetic, already abstracted. One cannot help but hear the cold, industrial pulse of the house music that moves the men in their collective dance, or to speculate about the drugs that are used (and perhaps required) to sustain their enthusiasm.

In his recent work, Dorosz continues his exploration of the intersection between the material and virtual in culture with greater attention to the formal processes of his painting practice. On the walls, hang paintings constructed firstly of staples meticulously woven together in repeated, almost mechanical patterns, and subsequently filled-in with paint. They are highly decorative paintings whose repetitions give them a superficial effect, akin to minimalist music. Only secondarily does one discern the crude material basis for the paintings – the staples – and begin to marvel at the intense, physical labor and extraordinary patience required in their construction. Weaving the the staples – which conventionally function in the the technique of painters only to hold the canvas onto the stretcher – into patterns in which one staple necessarily closes in on another in order to contain the paint, Dorosz has established a parallel between the units created by the staples and the play of postive and negative space between them, and the pixelation of digital screens. The paintings oscillate between representation and abstraction as figures dissolve into the digital units defined by the staples and the patterns that they create on the surface of the painting, while, on the other hand, strictly abstract paintings, devoid of any concrete content, appear not only to present the play of light and color, but furthermore to represent the empty surface of computer and television screens, as objects of enjoyment in themselves.

In the center of the gallery, Dorosz has suspended what at first appear to be small sculptures of figures between plates of plexiglass. Upon further examination, however, they too reveal themselves to be paintings. Responding to the techniques of digital animation, Dorosz has constructed a field of transparent rods, upon which he has painted figures, not simply by creating the illusion of depth, but by actually reconstructing the depth-of-field. He has painted the figures from all sides, so that they stand suspended in the room, somewhere between the concrete reality of sculptural objects and the spectral illusion of holograms. The living body is seen both as a crudely physical aggragate of drops of paint – whose material concreteness appears all the more vivid against the cold surface of the plexiglass rods – and as an impossibly fantastical object, with profoundly personal and sentimental qualities.

- Clark Buckner




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