The Medium Is the Message? An Artist Profile of Joshua Citarella
Joshua Citarella moves fluently from photography and sculpture to digital media in his artistic practice, making use of both analogue and digital work flows. Like Lucas Blalock, Matthew Porter and Daniel Gordon, Citarella fully embraces the possibilities for image creation that digital tools have on offer. At the same time all his projects share a concern with post-production techniques and a critical need to understand the consequences of their use. Where someone like Blalock may at first seem ham-fisted in his use of Photoshop with his slapdash strokes, imprecise masks and awkward colours to hammer the message home, Citarella looks to be an accomplished master of the trade. After all, he performs his interventions with the meticulous precision of a surgeon, producing clean, cold and perfect imagery.
Some of his works are as abstract as they come. Consisting of straight lines, sharp angles, basic figures and strong colours, there is a whiff of art movement De Stijl surrounding his pictures. The viewer is never too certain whether these images are digital composites or photographs of the real thing. They sure look real enough, even though there is the nagging thought at the back of the spectator’s mind that the pictures do not quite compute. Other photographs of his would not have looked out of place in a fashion magazine, such as the portrait of a reclining nude covered in silver body paint. At least, we are meant to believe the paint is real and not a digitally altered skin tone. Citarella believes it is easier for the viewer to detect digital tomfoolery on a human body, whereas tampering with objects can more easily go unnoticed. That is as may be, but the female model Citarella uses in his compositions looks so perfect that she becomes surreal and all too reminiscent of those airbrushed women on display in fashion magazines. ¹ The human body plays another role in his more abstract compositions. It is there to provide a sense of perspective in relation to the other objects in the image. Still other pictures by Citarella look to be perfectly executed examples of product photography, if only there was a buyer interested in purchasing some undefined red metal cabinet. Or bland silver rods, all perfectly lit and presented.
Not only is Citarella critical of how images are produced and tampered with, he also takes a stance with regards to how they are presented and consumed.
Not only is Citarella critical of how images are produced and tampered with, he also takes a stance with regards to how they are presented and consumed. For his curatorial project Compression Artifacts he constructed a white box to show art works produced by fellow artists such as Artie Vierkant and Kate Steciw. The pop up exhibition closely resembled any modern art gallery or museum, but for one important detail. It was physically inaccessible. It was built somewhere deep in the woods at an undisclosed location. In this way it could not attract the usual art gallery visitors to look at the art works and perhaps purchase them. The only way to access and view the works was indirectly by following the live feed of the construction of the white box. Citarella then frustrated the usual consumption process even further by demolishing the pop up art gallery and setting fire to the building materials and art works. The only remnants of the project are the pictures of heaps of ash. Citarella is not the first artist to destroy art works to make a point, but he is probably the first one to do it to a specific exhibition.
Joshua Citarella (b. 1987, USA) lives and works as an artist and curator in New York City. He graduated with a BFA from the school of Visual Arts in New York City in 2010. Citarella’s work has since featured in a solo exhibition at Higher Pictures in New York in 2013, and in group shows such as Brush it In at Flowers Gallery London (2012) and Hot Rare Signed at HHDM in Vienna (2013). As curator he is mostly known for his PSD Show project in 2012 and Compression Artifacts in 2013. His work has been selected for the Foam Magazine Talent Issue # 36.
¹ For my take on Dutch fashion models past and present, read here.