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Post-internet darling Petra Cortright first found artworld attention in the mid-aughts with intentionally basic webcam video self-portraits—prescient ripples of the internet’s impending selfie tsunami. As Cortright has shifted her work to be more commercially friendly, her work has spent more time digitally dwelling on the medium of painting. Since all of her work is at its essence a digital file, Cortright has the possibility of any printable material becoming her canvas. Thus an infinite amount of “unique” printed and digital works can all spring from one mother file, disrupting the notion of the singular art object.
Mining the vernacular internet of sites such as Pinterest for source material, Cortright quotes crowd pleasing art historical hits—from vaguely surrealist-looking interiors to explosions of patternistic abstraction à la Klimt. For her printed works, the medium for all is “digital painting,” a curious descriptor for pieces whose material process has more in common with printing or the seriality of photography, than with paint on canvas. Look closely at what appears to be the sensuous curve of a brushstroke and you will see the familiar, jagged edge of rasterized pixels. Cortright is clearly adept at her digital tools and rides the edge of pictorial skeuomorphism skillfully.
This edge is lost in the four flash animation works also on view, endless loops of animals cavorting through artistically vandalized landscapes. While their intention may be to riff on the screensaver, they never transcend their medium. The true gem of the show is bollywood stars nude_creatine Pyruvate (2017), an 11 minute video of Cortright’s Photoshop processes in subtle slow motion. The effect is mesmerizing, providing motion and mobility to what is a traditionally static object while also being a beguiling expression of aesthetics as data. While it is clear Cortright has a firm grasp of the possibilities of her medium, the serializing of her works as large scale canvas prints that riff on art history feels less than convincing. Certainly now may be the moment to use digital tools to consider the past and future of painting, but there is a sincerity lacking in many of the works included; they feel too indulgently digestible or smirkingly one-note to truly satisfy.