Optimized Paintings for the Digital Age
In this four-part series, Arts Magazine’s editor Rob Colvin examines the work of 80+ contemporary painters – including Nicolas Party, Julie Curtiss, Emily Mae Smith, Austin Lee, Jordan Kasey, Devan Schimoyama, Elizabeth Glaessner, Loie Hollowell, and Christina Quarles – through an interpretive frame: “The Kostabi Effect.”
The Kostabi Effect is an approach to painting artist Mark Kostabi developed in the 1980s to exploit the decade’s boom of digital media. Cable TV, VCRs, camcorders, home computers, graphical user interfaces, and video game console, had created a new era of ubiquitous digital-image creation and exchange. “Video killed the radio star,” as sung by the Buggles, of MTV. In this new environment, Kostabi merged surrealist motifs, based on works by Georgio De Chirico, with mass production expediency, practiced by Andy Warhol, to generate paintings uniquely suited to flatter their second-hand representation in quickly-consumed reproductions. The Kostabi Effect consists of three main attributes: Surrealist Subject, Axial Gradient Color, and Simplified Shapes.
Today’s proliferation of media platforms and image exchange – on Instagram, especially – constitute revived visual conditions paralleling those Kostabi understood and embraced 40 years ago. In response to these new circumstances of our digital world, swaths of painters, self-consciously or not, have renewed the Kostabian approach to painting, producing a “Kostabi Effect” in contemporary painting.