Critics’ Picks

Cory Arcangel, Diddy / Lakes, 2013, single-channel video, media player, flat-screen, armature, various cables, 70 x 38".

New York

Cory Arcangel

Team Gallery | Wooster Street
47 Wooster Street
September 7–October 26

In Diddy/Lakes, 2013—the first in the recent series of Arcangel’s work featured here—a seventy-inch flat screen displays a photo of the perennially recycled rapper boarding a private jet. As in all of the Lakes, the image has been digitally animated to hypnotically reflect in a rippling pool by using the eponymous Java applet, a popular tool of the 1990s. The effect—redolent of the adolescence of the Internet—reminds us of the rapid, tandem evolution of technology and taste. Applied to familiar but forgettable images sourced from the Web, the animation suggests that a watery grave of oblivion haunts our cultural memory. Arcangel also pulls imagery from his back catalog: for example, Russell’s Rainbow/Lakes, 2014, samples one of the artist’s Photoshop gradients. In giving equal weight to artistic abstraction and snapshots from social media, the installation points to the flattening of visual culture by digital archives.

In past exhibitions, Arcangel has consistently juxtaposed different bodies of work in different formats, foregrounding the intractable materiality of digital technologies. However, for this show, he cleared out the room, carpeted the floor, and mounted the screens vertically, like portrait paintings. The installation consequently recalls models of art production and spectatorship that are at risk of being outmoded but are ripe for reinvention, just like the celebrities and technologies we see here. To that end, Arcangel uses “new” media to transform banal images into artworks with sensuality, humor, and depth. The Lakes thus surf the Möbius strip of high and low, art and tech, even as they speak (and destabilize) the codes of painting, sculpture, photography, and film. Tl;dr: The digital is art’s mother tongue.