chrome goes retro

I had arrived in the City of Glass over two years earlier, still glowing from a momentary flash of fame sparked by my painting of a Hell’s Angel ascending into heaven on a bolt of chrome lightning. In those first brief, heady moments, I fancied I was destined to be big – oops; I mean, BIG! – and of course, the only place to do that was in the Big Apple. So I sold most of my earthly goods and took off down the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway in an old bus laden with paint and canvas, headed straight for Gotham. The Emerald City. Babylon. I was going to be an artist. Thus began my entry into the first level of the inferno…
……………………………..– excerpt from a memoir-in-progress, love gone down

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Author’s Note: For my new show at Pirats, I decided to stage a mini-retrospective, covering the segmented stages of my art career in a dozen or so works. Embedded in each was a notecard, the text of which follows…

This show came about as a result of doing research for a new book about my journey from paint to pixels and beyond. It presented me with a rare opportunity to rummage through my parallel attics looking for treasures from the past, and then line them up alongside a few gems from the present, step back, and try to figure out what the hell it is I’ve been doing all these years. One of my realizations was that there was a kind of silver thread running through it all… that thread was one long, shiny power cord. Technology was an integral part of it from the very beginning.

From my early days in New York where I was up to my elbows in paint while fiddling with projectors and cameras, to the magical present where I now travel through time and space in the blink of an avatar’s eye, create works which exist almost entirely in digital (read: imaginary) form, and then conjure them up in galleries that also seem to magically appear from somewhere in the landscape of my own mind. The mind that matters, that is.

If I were to summarize this journey in artistic terms, then, I’d say that it began with the desire to express ideas in a new voice; the merging of man and machine, old technology and new technology. It also appears that photo-collage led me down the path to the limitless powers of Photoshop; and that would lead to a new, completely digital life in a virtual world, where ideas seem to expand in every direction. Out of all these scattered and sometimes incoherent experiments I was able to isolate four distinct periods, which can be roughly divided along several decades:

The Seventies: Paint on Canvas
During this period I was creating large Pop Art paintings by projecting pre-manipulated slides and transparencies onto shaped and distorted canvas, then outlined and painted using acrylics. Examples from this period are Young Love and Angel.

The Eighties: Mixed Media
Although there were many experimental approaches during this time, I finally settled into a collage-and-paint technique using still shots taken directly from a television screen with a Nikon SLR camera mounted on a tripod. The snapshots were then arranged in various patterns and painted back into. Two of these works, Adam’s Dream and Seven Feet from Easy Street, are exhibited here.

The Nineties: Digital Collage
Once I had discovered Photoshop, I set out to prove that all of the passion of the human soul could be squeezed through the machine mind of a computer, rendering with mathematical logic a visual symphony that could reach those places in the heart and mind that had only been accessible with the tools of traditional media. Most of my work from that point on was to be done in Photoshop; some examples of early experimentation in the medium seen here are Creation, Revelation, Ridge Road Remix and China Doll.

Early 21st Century: Virtual Art
It wasn’t until I became an avatar, though, that I was finally able to return to the magical world of childhood; a fantasy world where anything seemed possible; a world where everyone had the powers of a superhero and the ground all around me was made of eye candy. An example of my work in this genre is one of my most recent paintings, Lover Come Back. I’ve also included my very latest painting, War Paint, based on a poem by noted SL poet Karima Hoisan, to illustrate the power and diversity of the medium regardless of subject matter or approach. My work as a virtual artist has also branched out into a virtual webcomic series, mojozone, and my recent 3D comics, which were exhibited at the Caerleon Museum of Identity.

This Magic Moment
Finally, one of the most important discoveries for me has been the fact that technology doesn’t necessarily atomize our world and alienate us from one another; on the contrary, it opens entirely new pathways of communication and creative expression. Working as an artist in a virtual world has made it possible for me to become a member of a global community of creatives; grown up kids like me, ya might say, playin’ in the global sandbox. Looks to be a good century.

– Chrome Underwood, on the threshold of a new decade

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Shown above: China Doll, digital collage, 1992. An early experiment in digital image-making, this was my final nod to the masters of the Pop genre, and my last glance back before moving (literally, as it would turn out) forward into the digital world.

The show can be seen at Pirats SAS Art Gallery until Saturday, January 22…. hey, that’s next year!

New show up at Pirats, and for me it was an eye-opener. I decided to go back to the
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2 Responses to chrome goes retro

  1. Karima says:

    This phrase, Chrome, ” One of my realizations was that there was a kind of silver thread running through it all…” is the perfect description of what makes these diverse years, stages, techniques and styles all very much yours and I think that even your avatar’s name was chosen consciously or unconsciously *smiles* to emphasize this too.
    I found your mini retro show at Pirats so very interesting from the standpoint of watching your style develop and change over four decades, and I thank you for taking the time to write up the notecard that puts us more deeply into you and your artistic history. I found in every stage your singular uniqueness, a stamp of, I guess that “silver thread”, and I fell in love with new ones for me from your far past that both delighted and begged me to buy them… once again inspiring my own poetry. So seeing your works from so far back makes me hear your creative voice even clearer and causes the sensation of having always known and delighted in all that your silver thread connects so beautifully into an exciting lifetime of work.
    I know and can’t wait to see what new ones will be hanging out to dry in 2011. Wishing you the best for an artistic and prosperous New Year.

  2. Chrome says:

    Thank you so much, Karima, for your enthusiasm for my work, and for your poetic insight. Hard to believe that all these years have passed and I haven’t let go of that silver thread yet… but then… it does possess some sort of magic power, doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s an umbilical cord leading into the next world. Simply bewitching. :)

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