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"Post-painterly abstraction" was Clement Greenberg's term for a kind of self-referential art that, by the 1960s, was becoming increasingly less rooted in the physical world of art-making materials. The then-new polymer paints made possible a kind of uninflected visual experience: color experienced as pure presence. The minimalists took this logic further than Greenberg was willing to go with an emphasis on found materials and processes: e.g., Dan Flavin's colored light bulbs. Extend the logic even more and art would be a series of Sol Lewitt-like commands to a piece of hardware such as a computer monitor, telling it to beam certain colors in certain configurations directly to a remote viewer's eyes.

And that's what Christopher (or Chris) Ashley is doing with his "html drawings," it seems to me: these aren't jpegs that can be right-clicked and saved but a series of instructions to your browser, telling it to draw tables in particular shapes and fill them in with hexadecimal colors (#0088bb, #00bbbb, #0077cc, #00CCCC, #0099cc, and #00dddddd in the piece above, for example). As you can see from Ashley's archive, some of the configurations get quite elaborate. I like the simplicity of Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Pacific Grove (reproduced here without permission by saving the html in "View/Source" on my toolbar, hope it's OK), but also the complexity of The Asian Influence in Drawing, I - XV and the super-baroque Hippie Dreams, I - XII, the latter of which also incorporates .gif files. One quibble: an aspect of a project like this ought to be that each viewer experiences the work as his/her browser interprets it, just as painters ultimately must lose control of the lighting conditions and surroundings in which their art is viewed. Ashley has said that certain pieces are best viewed on IE, which favors a proprietary format and kind of stunts the magic of a million possible readings (including "incorrect" readings) of the work.

Ashley also has a nice weblog here. This is my off-the-cuff take on his work, BTW, and may not jibe at all with his own theory; looking forward to exploring the site(s) and learning more.


- tom moody 8-24-2003 7:45 am [link]