Joseph NECHVATAL - Orlando et la Tempête
Orlando et la Tempête is a series of new virus-modeled artificial life paintings by Joseph Nechvatal that indirectly addresses issues of gender fluidity within our tempestuous viral and social-political times by imagining nonexistent mythic scenes from the 1928 novel Orlando by Virginia Woolf (the story of an aristocratic young male poet who transforms into a woman overnight and lives for 300 years).
Storms have no gender and mean full-blow fluidity. In Orlando et la Tempête, the artist’s ambiguous Orlando avatar is embedded into just such noisy chaotic grounds to the extent that normal figure/ground relationships more-or-less merge; playing elusively with what is seen, what is suggested, what is repressed, and what is desired.
Though viral issues and gender fluidity are culturally and politically topical, those subjects are nothing new to Nechvatal. In 2000, he exhibited Computer Virus Project II artworks (with artist’s statements) investigating virtual hermaphrodite complexity in his ec-satyricOn 2000 exhibition, and again in his 2002 show vOluptuary: an algorithic hermaphornology. He has continued to use viral and androgynous forms in his work, since. In 2018, he penned a pansexual art theory paper entitled Before and Beyond the Bachelor Machine that was published in Arts.
Except for two medium sized paintings, the Orlando et la Tempête works are single, diptychs and triptyches 12 x 12 inches square paintings. Compared to his very large paintings, the new series has a crisp resolution with bright saturated colors that suggest digital screens or stained glass windows. Thereby, Nechvatal addresses a mixture between conceptualism and visual aesthetics.
Joseph Nechvatal began to exhibit his artworks in galleries in New York City in 1982 and rapidly got recognition for his drawings. Some of them entered the famous New York art collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. Nechvatal has worked with electronic images and computer technology since 1986. In 1987, he exhibited his computer-robotic assisted paintings at Documenta 8, in Kassel, Germany. Manipulating his drawings and photographs with computers software in 1986, Nechvatal established himself as pioneer in the history of digital art.
Since 1991, Nechvatal has been infecting his paintings with his own computer virus; the first time this has been done in painting in art history. The Galerie Richard exhibition Computer Virus Project 1.0 was a selection from Nechvatal’s HyperCard Computer Virus Project 1.0 work from 1992-93 that dealt with the AIDS (SIDA) virus epidemic, placed in conjunction with growing concerns for computer viruses. These infected virus paintings were conceived under the umbrella of the FRAC Franche-Comte at the Centre International de Réflexion sur l’Avenir de la Fondation Claude-Nicolas Ledoux at La Saline Royale d’Arc-et-Senans, during Nechvatal’s artist-in-residency at the Atelier Louis Pasteur in Arbois, France (1991-1993). In 2001, Nechvatal collaborated with the computer programmer Stéphane Sikora on an extended project to create a digital virus within the principles of artificial life; i.e., to create a synthetic system that reproduces the behavioral characteristics of viral organisms. In his Galerie Richard exhibition nOise anusmOs, this virus knitted filaments of visual material and assembled them gradually into images that were painted on black velvet.
In 1992, Joseph Nechvatal participated in the exhibition L’Epreuve Numérique in Centre National de la Photographie, Paris. Since 2008, he has exhibited regularly at Galerie Richard Paris and since 2011 at Galerie Richard New York. Joseph Nechvatal’s works are featured in the collections of MoMA, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Jewish Museum, New York, Malmö Kunsthall, Sweden, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Museum of Dôle, France, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.