When Image Processing Became Painting

Alex Carver,  Charles Gaines,  Jean-Luc Godard,  Wade Guyton,  Kate Mosher Hall,  Tishan Hsu,  Scott Lyall,  Helen Marten,  Richard Prince,  R. H. Quaytman,  Raha Raissnia,  Blake Rayne,  Cheyney Thompson,  Andy Warhol

February 2 — March 9, 2024
88 Eldridge Street



Miguel Abreu Gallery is pleased to announce the opening, on Friday, February 2, of When Image Processing Became Painting, an exhibition featuring paintings and drawings by a group of 13 artists, along with a video work fragment by Jean-Luc Godard. The show will be held at our 88 Eldridge Street space.

At what precise moment in the last hundred years did artists become actively aware that images preceded their efforts to produce new ones? It remains a question for debate, but what is less uncertain is that the ubiquitous and incessant circulation of pictures now constitutes a kind of second nature, a psychological condition shared by all, and by painters in particular.

The exhibition is anchored in the work of Andy Warhol, who pioneered the passive reception, slight displacement and enhancement of mass communication imagery as the essential subject matter of painting. As acts of celebration of highly recognizable photographic sources, his paintings consisted primarily in selecting, cropping, silkscreening and coloring pictures that the public already knew all too well. On the other side of the spectrum, Gerhard Richter’s ‘personal photography’, and its crucial role in forming the foundation of his vast painting production, serves as another point of departure for the project.

The next phase of technological development, which made scanners, image processing software and inkjet printers available to artists, offered new levels of complexity to explore with regards to the immediate apprehension, manipulation and transformation of pre-existing material.

From the year 2000 on, shall we say, advanced image processing, AI, machine learning, neural networks and generative algorithms have gradually allowed for even more sophisticated manipulation, generation and editing of imagery as an integral part of the creative process. Along with others, these instruments and digital tools have helped to question and suspend the conventional, medium specific definition of painting and have thrust it—for better or worse—towards previously unimaginable territories.

Far removed from the sense of blissful resignation inherent to the Warholian attitude, the next generation of painters unveiled a new breed of inventors, or mixers of novel images that could not exist without the precedence and consciousness of others.

If what is at stake in a Cézanne landscape is to test and express the painter’s sensory connection to the surrounding nature—that elusive in between zone—it could be argued that the ethical imperative of today’s painters is grounded in the relation they might palpably establish with their environment of pre-existing images.