Meet Joe Black and His Pixelated Portraits
Ellen Yoshi Tani
The series depicts a portrait of a Chinese soldier boy, as taken by legendary war photographer Robert Capa. The portrait is repeated 18 times using 9 different colours, with a mirror copy of each of the 9 colour portraits. This portrait study encompasses the notion of the ‘copy’, an imitation or reproduction of an original. Although the portrait has been replicated 18 times, each work is unique in its own right with intentional differences and imperfections in the execution of the works. The Chinese boy soldier is depicted using toy soldiers, which symbolise the Chinese attitude towards the notorious ability to copy and, whether in life, manufacture or military, the long tradition of valuing rote learning over original thought.
Joe Black’s work is the vanguard of the current Pop Art movement. He describes his works as “revealing the unexpected” as they are viewed both from a distance and up close to make the ordinary extraordinary. Black combines his natural craft skills with a love of materials - many of which are recognizable everyday objects - to create portraits and abstract works. Using a laborious technique of hand painting and altering each tiny object to give gentle lines and shading to his subjects, Black has pioneered an elaborate new form of pixilation that he uses to hide subtle implications within each of his images. This is perhaps best illustrated by his use of 5,500 plastic toy soldiers in his depiction of Robert Capa’s iconic boy soldier piece Made in China (2011).
British, b. 1973