Petra Cortright

For Petra Cortright, the Web Is the Ultimate Canvas

Maxwell Williams, The New York Times Style Magazine, November 8, 2013


Digital art has become an accepted part of every biennial and international art fair. Last month, Philips de Pury even devoted an auction to it, October’s successful Paddles On!, presented in partnership with Tumblr. But the form is still the punk rock of the art world. For the 26-year-old L.A.-based artist Petra Cortright, it’s the ideal form, because it’s both more convenient and less precious than more traditional forms like painting. “There’s so many resources,” she says, “and it doesn’t feel like there’s so much riding on it.”

Her show “✖✗✘ BLank BLANk bLANk •・∘,” which opens Nov. 9 at Steve Turner Contemporary, actually features a series of rather painterly wall pieces. Cortright makes them by trawling the Internet for colors and visual fragments, then plugging her finds into a Photoshop canvas with hundreds of layers. Next she flattens the massive files and prints them on aluminum. She’ll show several of these “paintings,” one of which sold at Paddles On!, alongside several flags emblazoned with low-res net art imagery and tablets hung on the walls showing several of her YouTube videos.

The videos are what first got Cortright noticed. (One was recently selected for Frieze Art Fair’s Frieze Film program; another was censored by YouTube in 2011.) Descended from the moving-image work of Alex Bag and Pipilotti Rist, they’re limited to about two minutes — because no one wants more than that, she reasons — and usually feature her on a webcam, displaying a guileless SoCal demeanor that has become her personal brand. In “buggin out,” a recent piece, she uses digital trickery to change the size of her eyes each time she raises and lowers a pair of sunglasses, so that they go from teensy to anime-character enormous. “It’s half very sincere,” she says, “and then, of course, it’s also a performance as well.”

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