From November 8th to December 10th, 2017, Galerie Richard will present the the work of American artist Joseph Nechvatal in a mini-retrospective called Computer Virus 1.0 and the Return of Lazarus. This exhibition consists of 9 computer-robotic assisted paintings: 4 historic 1993 paintings from Nechvatal’s HyperCard Computer Virus Project (1992-93) that dealt with the AIDS virus epidemic placed in conjunction with computer viruses, 2 small 1988 paintings from his Informed Man series (1986-89), and 3 new 2017 paintings on velour entitled The Return of Lazarus. These 3 new paintings are based on recovered digital files of Nechvatal’s 1986 maquettes of un-realized computer-robotic assisted paintings from his Informed Manseries that featured an information-saturated Lazarus returning from the dead. The entirety of the show stresses a continuum of artistic acts based on recovering from loss and the resisting of oblivion.
Computer Virus 1.0 and the Return of Lazarus picks up on the themes of extinction and viral demise that Joseph Nechvatal developed in the late-80s and early-90s. His Computer Virus Project was created 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 as part of Nechvatal’s artist-in-residency at Atelier Louis Pasteur in Arbois, France (1991-1993). As discussed with Thyrza Goodeve in an interview in the January 2016 issue of The Brooklyn Rail, Nechvatal explains that the Computer Virus Project’s initial goal was to produce physical paintings using algorithms that implement a virtual ‘viral’ model. This use of computer code as simulation tool allowed him to virtually introduce artificial viruses into a digitized reproduction of his earlier artwork (the host) and to transform and destroy those images in a ravishing manner. During these launched ‘attacks’ in 1993, a new still image was extracted and robotically spray painted on canvas so as to bring the virtual into the actual realm. The negative connotations of the HIV virus as a vector of disease is reflected in the principle of degradation that the host image undergoes, but the virus is also the basis of a creative process, producing newness in terms of the history of painting.
Joseph Nechvatal, whose cross platform work creates deep connections to John Cage’s chance-based art theory, is a post-conceptual artist who has worked with computer technology since 1986. His computer-assisted paintings and animations turn intimate details of the human body into pictorial units that are transformed by digital viruses. This work results in a contamination of the tradition of painting on canvas by artificial life software, thus creating an interface between the virtual and the actual that Nechvatal calls the viractual. Nechvatal has recently exhibited at La Biennale di Venezia, Eventi Collaterali, in a show based on his book Immersion Into Noise. He has published two books of art theory, Towards an Immersive Intelligence: Essay on the Work of Art in the Age of Computer Technology and Virtual Reality 1993-2006 (2009, Edgewise Press) and Immersion Into Noise (2011, University of Michigan Open Humanities Press). Nechvatal’s works are in the collections of MoMA, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Jewish Museum, New York, Malmö Kunsthall, Sweden, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.