Petra Cortright first gained attention for webcam self-portrait videos altered by animated gifs that she would post to her YouTube account and caption with spam text. In recent years, she has expanded her practice to include works in painting, sculpture, film, and video. In Cortright’s hands, painting opens up expansive and seemingly limitless layers of information found while surfing on the internet. She has referred to her painting process as “breaking down photography,” often creating up to hundreds of layers before printing the result to canvas or high gloss paper. Google Images, Bing, and Pinterest, with its array of dream interiors, have proven to be rich repositories of material for the artist. She is less concerned with the content of the images than the colors, surfaces, and textures that she finds there, which she wields as digitally sourced “paints” to create her complex and ebullient compositions. Cortright’s luminous renderings recall the celestial hues of classical Impressionist painting as much as the ambient glow of the computer screen. Emphasized by an arsenal of digital brushstrokes, they confound our perception of the digital-analog divide.
Petra Cortright (b. 1986, Santa Barbara) lives and works in Los Angeles. Cortright has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Doota Plaza, Seoul; LIMA, Amsterdam; UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles; University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh; and Depart Foundation, Los Angeles. She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions at international venues including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; KM – Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Kunsthaus Langenthal, Langenthal; New Museum, New York; 12th Biennale de Lyon, Lyon; and SJ01 Biennial, San Jose.
Reckless Bloom: On Petra Cortright’s Shuddering Landscapes
It is said that a significant marker of climate apocalypse will be madness pervading the seasons, a kind of riptide devouring natural logic and shifting the lengths of the meteorological calendar. In her new video work, American artist Petra Cortright’s pastiched landscapes defy the assumed order of ecosystems, conveying a low-level anxiety that one might feel when the weather stops making sense. But her crafted scenes also come with a sense of relief. The piece, called
green hill green light esprit de corps, is laced with optimism and freedom.
As is well-evidenced in her ongoing art practice, Cortright is invested in the history of painting. Her scenes recall a continuity of painters throughout history who have tackled nature as subject matter and our own fragility in its grip. To beat back against this notion, painters interpreted the natural with touches of surrealism as Cortright does here. Think of Caspar David Friedrich’s The Sea of Ice from 1823, a work edging on the surreal so much so that it confounded audiences at the time. That kind of Romantic feeling swirls through the artist’s filmed landscape.
This cannot be real, not for a moment. When writing about modernist painting, art critic Clement Greenberg described how the Impressionists left “the eye under no doubt as to the fact that the colours used were made of real paint that came from pots and tubes.”* Similarly, Cortright leaves digital details out in the open for us. Low-res grittiness recalls that her pot and tube is a Wacom tablet and downloaded digital brush sets. And that “utter flatness” of modernist traditions that Greenberg croons about is embraced too, via FlowScape and Photoshop. Cortight’s hand is obviously present, meandering, searching, and testing boundaries across bucolic scenery. But is it a creator or a witness? This question haunts the video as we gaze at the blank undersides of daisies catching lens flares.
Disparate foliage is yoked together: we meet a ground of dead leaves but there are no trees from which they fell. The forest floor is like a desktop background, a kind of catchment basin for things nature shrugs off. And it gets wiped out sooner or later, subsumed under the surface and into the bin of earth underneath. The decaying leaves are cut against a bright sky, and they shift under cloud shadows. The limitlessness of the blue is dizzying and this delicate patch of earth teeters between states of birth and nonexistence. Exotic shells bloom in ashy earth. Daisies and cornflowers explode from a rootless, untethered surface.
Cortright’s flowers have a noted stillness even when they pop up from the thin pixel relief. This begs another question: Are we looking at landscape painting or something more akin to still life? I am thinking of what the influential American art historian Norman Bryson noted about Dutch still life painting in particular, a movement that brought together nature from all corners of the world into the space of single paintings. In these works, few connections between the natural objects presented existed. Bryson notes this, adding that “when the framework of space and time is effectively neutralised, there is an elevation of human powers over creatural limitation.” In such paintings, he notes, “lurks a certain Faustian ambition.” * Empty shells from different oceans collapse distance, and flowers from far-off lands result in, as he puts it, the “abolition of place.”
This kind of power taken up by artists was exciting and provocative then as it is now, but we have different tools. Pioneering artists working in the 16th century could not have imagined how flat and stacked the pictorial world would become as it does in Cortrights’s depicted terrain.n
As an artist based in the American West, Cortright has, by osmosis, inherited awareness of distressed ecosystems. The pictorial plane of green hill green light esprit du corps borrows from land-use studies, those diagrams that show controlled flows of water, which map out a controlled forest burn in an attempt to fend off a real one. In such illustrations, multiple scenarios play out at once. And similarly, in Cortright’s 17-minute film, the viewer witnesses a perplexing conundrum of scenarios: cumulus clouds hang above the sun-filled ground and it is also drizzling and it is simultaneously storming. Everything is growing, degrading, and regenerating. A closed loop.
What can we understand from our scientific, artistic, and technological attempts to get to know nature? On some level, pursuits of making sense of things have always been pretty futile. Nothing is inherently important, it’s all about vibe. We have always been at the whim of the world. And so, the artist searches for meaning, or at least beauty, in their work. In Cortright’s case, the hunt is across a delicately rendered map, though it may be better understood as a mind map. The artist searches, maybe, for something like spring. Soon we are panning away from this mirage-like landscape—our anxiety ebbing and flowing as we try to rationalise an irrational place. One may hear the fading echo Rainer Maria Rilke, who captured most perfectly, that seasonal, desperate wonder of the world:
“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colours, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.”
*Greenberg, Clement. “Modernist Painting.” (1965). Art in Theory 1990–2000, 2003. Edited by Charles Harrison and Paul Wood.
*Bryson, Norman. Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting, 1990. Reaktion Books.
Petra Cortright makes art in traditional genres, such as landscape and portraiture, using tools, sources, formats, and platforms native to the age of the internet and digital technology.
During the early 2000s, she captured the attention of the art world with a series of self-portrait videos that demonstrated unconventional uses of standard special effects. Petra also makes digital paintings printed on aluminum, linen, and paper. These paintings evoke the work of the Impressionists and other plein air painters, but she sources her imagery online, using the internet as a stand-in for nature.
These works, nonetheless, exert a powerful physical presence. As she puts it, “While the work originates from an endless digital realm, my decision to ‘save as’ finalizes the painting and gives it a unique place in the ‘real world’ forever. I have a deep love of physical things and physical spaces.”
October is a bad month for the wind, the month where breathing is difficult and the hills blaze up simultaneously. There has been no rain since April. Every voice seems a scream.
Cortright’s digital paintings combine expansive and seemingly limitless layers of information found while surfing on the internet. She is less concerned with the content of her source material than the colors, surfaces, and textures that she finds there, which she wields as digitally sourced paints using Photoshop to create complex and ebullient compositions comprising up to several hundred layers. The exhibition BALEAF GYS AKADEMIKS maamgic BROKIG presents a series of recent landscape paintings on aluminum, as well as a new video work.
Cortright makes no secret of her affinities with the American west. “Growing up in California,” she says, “I have a West-Coast color palette, and in some paintings, I try to achieve the depth and vastness that is present in the landscapes here. You can see for miles and miles, there are huge mountains and a big ocean, and a lot of different biomes. All of these things seeped into my brain, and it shows up in my aesthetics.” In her newest works, Cortright portrays a series of ruggedly beautiful, invented landscapes that seem to bristle with a sense of foreboding. One painting layers transparent renderings of wintery peaks with bald brown hills that seem to bake in the summer sun. In the foreground vast thickets of agave bloom from negative space, their spiky appendages executed in hot reds and oranges reminiscent of infernal flames. In another work, a turbulent composition of electric-colored mountains and wind-swept trees are practically subsumed by scratches, roiling lines, and splashes of white. Below, entangled configurations of plant life bleed into layers of thorny-shaped cutouts that reveal the substrate of the image. Geographically impossible mashups that collapse space, distance, and weather into one composition, Cortright’s accumulations of pristine snowcapped mountain ranges, rolling hills, and great expanses of agave and whale’s tongue seemed poised on the precipice between heaven and hell, unlocking the dual sense of exaltation and terror inherent in the sublime.
Can you tell me a bit about your show on view in Berlin right now at Société?
The file is built in Photoshop—a whole series or a whole show comes from one file. The source images are from the internet or from my cell phone and the images are broken apart or broken down. Colors from the pixels can be extracted for paint strokes. The brush strokes are made from Wacom tablet, so it is by my hand. You can make the brushes from scratch, so what that means is that you can save a certain set of parameters and you can control the number of bristles in the brush, the angle, and the percentage of water in the brush. All these things we’re talking about is about controlling pixels, but it is hyper-realistic to painting. I have like a collection of over a decade of saved brush packs that I’ve collected for years now. Each element of the painting is completely editable and malleable, so every little piece that you see can be changed. Many files are saved, many versions are saved, and then I save as I go. I’ll go back later and select the ones that are my favorites and those are sent to the printer to be produced into a physical work. The mood of the file dictates the substrate a little bit. Certain files will read better on aluminum or certain ones will read better on linen. The number of that just depends on how big the gallery is.
When you see your work as images online, it could appear as if it’s painted on paper or canvas. I wonder, do you feel like your work ever is misread?
Yeah, it’s something that I’ve been explaining for a long time and I think I’ll have to keep explaining it for a very long time. The issue is that I’m a painter, but I don’t use paint, so it confuses people. I’m not trying to confuse people but it does. How do you make a painting without paint? What makes a painting a painting? I always wanted to be a painter and I think I have a painter’s brain but I don’t have the patience for the process or the materials. Plus, I never had the money to invest into that process, either. There is somewhat of a barrier of entry into that, and I have always just felt so clever and powerful when I use a computer. I can work quickly and I can make so many files—I think that’s a holy grail situation for an artist, when you are able to produce quickly every idea that you want to make, with no holds barred. Just the freedom in that is something that I really value, so I don’t even know how I would not work digitally. When I choose to produce a physical piece, that’s when money gets involved. It’s quite expensive to make nice physical things.
What sets you apart from a lot of artists, in my opinion, is your disinterest in trying to be on the right side of issues. You always tried to not bring ethics into your work and keep art separate. How have you been thinking about this lately?
The art world almost has a gun to people’s heads in the current climate, telling them to make work that is political, social, or about someone’s identity. Art is so much bigger than that. I’ve always separated art from the art world and from the art market. It’s something that’s really important for me to be able to do because art would otherwise be ruined for me. Art in a very pure, abstract form is worth fighting for. The art world is a social construct: At its best, it can be a supportive community of people and, at its worst, it has almost nothing to do with art and it’s just a social thing. The art market is a financial construct that’s barely real and completely laughable because it’s just so dark. I couldn’t sleep at the end of the day if I felt hypocritical about my work or if I was trying to say that the work was doing something or helping people in a way that it just wasn’t. It’s very simple for me: Art in general is very meaningful to me and I feel like I am a defender of beauty and simplicity. In that sense, I have no problem letting go of the work, selling it, or having it be in the art world, because that meaning is already there for me, and it’s already very separate. Making a living of art is a huge surprise and privilege. I failed at almost everything else I’ve tried to do in my life, so I feel very lucky. But trying to mix that in with ethical questions gets very complicated very quickly. I have no problem selling work or making a living off of it, because I want to have a stable and good life, and I’m not going to apologize for that or say that I don’t want that. Because I definitely do.
VVEBCAM is a portrait of the artist as a computer user whose primary mode of existence is recording and being watched. Departing from the direct-to-camera address typical of early video art and the ubiquitous selfies of today’s social media, VVEBCAM features Cortright sitting impassively in front of a webcam as she manipulates the clip art moving around her face. The video was made for YouTube, where the artist initially exploited the comments section of the website as much as the video itself, using keywords to attract viewers searching for erotic or offensive content and sabotaging their expectations.
Participation Effect: Petra Cortright’s Webcam Videos, 2007–2017
In February 2007, Cortright uploaded her first webcam video to Youtube. She titled it simply: VVEBCAM. Just under two minutes long, the video shows Cortright disinterestedly scrolling through the catalog of visual effects pre-programmed into her webcam, ranging from dancing pizzas to bolts of lightning. When she hosted the video online, Cortright tagged it with a range of keywords, including names of celebrities, porn search terms, and racial slurs. As a result, VVEBCAM inserted itself into the system of targeted circulation that was coming to define the web 2.0 era.
Between 2007 and 2017, Cortright made fifty webcam videos ranging in length from eighteen seconds to five and a half minutes. In these videos, Cortright explores the vocabulary of pre-fab effects bundled with the webcam and its software, often in tandem with popular music to which the artist sometimes lip-syncs. This was the decade in which the internet ossified as its control came under the hands of a few large corporations like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. In American politics, it is loosely bookended by the social media-lite election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the viral, meme-ified Q-anon fake news of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. It is the decade in which the promise of participation engendered by the internet gave way to disillusionment and control.
Online participation was the structuring principle of Nasty Nets, an online surf club with which Cortright had been involved since shortly after its founding. Nasty Nets was founded in August of 2006, one month before Facebook opened its ability to register to anyone with an email address, instead of only users affiliated with large universities and corporations. It allowed artists to share gifs, jpegs, and videos. Nasty Nets’ surfers—which included artists such as Marisa Olsen, Guthrie Lonergan, and Joel Holmberg, among others—showed a particular fondness for artifacts selected while browsing the internet. As such, Nasty Nets displayed a broad range of online user production, and an appreciation of how daily internet users experimented with the limitations of the internet in order to produce new images. Sometimes, these found things would be modified by Nasty Nets surfers. Frequently, they were displayed alongside original creations.
Petra Cortright used the gallery’s main room to realize an ambitious installation that expands the layers of a digital landscape painting into physical space. The painting’s hundreds of layers, individual and combined, are printed on industrial translucent substrates hung at intervals throughout the space, with pathways through and along the installation that introduce new and ever-expanding opportunities for composition to emerge. Cortright’s brand of landscape is chaotic, beautiful, and volatile, marked by abstraction and populated by jagged .jpg shards and swift blossoms of painterly brushwork; working with a pace and agility the digital methods at her disposal afford, the entanglement of mark-making, color, and texture can assume an almost synesthetic effect.
Cortright operates within the vernacular of landscape painting but outside of its classical means and materials, questioning how the haptic and lyrical might be laced within consumer technology, spam-text poetry, and files chosen not in defense of the poor image but in celebration of it. Her painting software of choice is, of course, Photoshop, and her works mine the expressive and unintended potential of its transformations, effects, and malleability. Evolving from earlier non-figurative works that include flash animation gifs and screensavers, in their insistent lightness and nimble fluency Cortright’s paintings conjure Jim Hodges and Frankenthaler, and convey the quality of ‘breath’ highly regarded in Chinese landscape painting.
In the past decade, as internet culture has steadily progressed towards predictive, targeted consumption, content has become a vehicle for formats and platforms rather than the other way around. By contrast, Cortright’s sensibility extends from the culture of personalization and customization which characterized fledgling internet culture, a DIY-oriented MO of using the most immediate and accessible means to create and share in ways that subvert rather conform to structure and legibility. The very act of making is a through-line that evolves from the artist’s early webcam videos to the most recent paintings that positions the how and why of creative production as a subject in and of itself.
I read somewhere that you guys met in a hot tub. Is that true?
That’s accurate. It was in Venice, California, at the home of a friend we had in common.
I was hanging out with some artists who were in town. We were swimming in Malibu and it was getting kind of late and cold, so I called that [mutual] friend—the only person I knew who lived on the west side. I said, “We’re cold and we don’t want to sit in rush hour traffic right now. Do you know anyone with a hot tub?” He was like, “It’s so weird that you’re calling me right now. I’m sitting in a hot tub—come over.”
I was there first, right? I was getting pretty tanked up—I had had a couple of beers and a little weed. Then this girl got in the hot tub and I was just gobsmacked. I was like, “Who is this?”
And I was just like, “That guy is so weird.” You were saying weird stuff, doing crazy things. Everyone was clearly thinking, “What is up with that guy?” But later, like three hours into meeting Marc, I realized that I knew who he was. I had actually read about his work when I was at Parsons, and I had heard our mutual friend Marisa [Olson] talk about him before.
About how handsome I was?
No! Anyway, you were still a weirdo, but after we made the connection that we both knew Marisa, you were at least a verified weirdo. You’re lucky that you knew Marisa because, otherwise, I would have said there’s no way.
After that, it was late and we were ready to go and I was like, “Hey, Petra, I’ve got some really great mezcal—why don’t you just stay at my house?”
I needed a ride. And his house was not as messy as his behavior. He actually had a really nice place. There were signs of life.
I had real furniture and a big TV and a nice guest bed. You know that bird that does that crazy mating dance? That was me. I had made my little nest just right for her.
Technically I moved in with him that first night. I had just moved to LA. I didn’t have like a lot of stuff going on and we were partying a lot.
I remember after a couple of days, I called a friend of mine from grad school and said, “I’ve found the woman I’m going to marry.” He was like, “Bro, you’ve got to slow your roll here.”
But you were right! So when did the proposal happen?
I proposed to her at a sushi restaurant that her parents used to go to in Little Tokyo. It was called Frying Fish. It had a conveyor belt.
It’s no longer there.
I got the ring and I called the sushi place to set everything up. Then I had to get Petra into a nearby grocery store somehow so I could sneak over to the restaurant. I told them, “Put it in a piece of sushi. When I ask for this particular sushi, you’re going to put it on the conveyor belt and it’s going to come around and I’m going to give it to Petra.” When I got her into the grocery store, she was like, “Why am I in a grocery store and why are you leaving? This is fishy.” No pun intended. Then the ring came around she just said, “What is that?”
I wanted to talk with you because I feel like we have somewhat similar philosophies about modus operandi. I’ve had conversations with ‘Art World People’ about making work and I find them hard to talk to because they have a specific outlook that I don’t necessarily share. I don’t want to say that we don’t care—it’s not cynical, it comes from more of a punk place. We both have strong instincts and understand our priorities and there are other things we would prefer to do besides attend an opening.
Well, actually, my first question is about trolling. I was trying to explain to somebody the other day that for me, if there’s an opportunity to troll, I’m always going to do it. It’s a philosophical position in a way. I was reading this interview between Devin Kenny and Hito Steyerl, and he was asking about some of her essays and how she’ll create a “willful provocation.” He was likening that to a troll, and asking about how she feels about that as a way of engaging, but also a way of starting a conversation or as a starting place for making artwork. I was looking through some of your work and thinking about the tone—I feel like sometimes people are missing the sense of humor in your work.
My work can be quite tongue-in-cheek and that has often been overlooked in favor of other agendas. I’m sure you get this too, but people project politics onto the work that are not there. The work is simple and the motivation to make it has always been to entertain myself. I work alone. I always made work I just wanted to look at, for myself—for my own desktop wallpaper. The sense of humor, the trolling... I had to find ways to entertain myself over the years. If anything, the work is related to something like Twitch—it’s a cheeky show of user-driven activity. Like, “Here’s what I can do with the same program you have!” I’ve always had an interest in default tools because I like to push them further than what they are intended for. I think it comes from a troll-y place but also from a place of confidence. It’s the same feeling when playing sports, when you’re having a good day, really feeling yourself, and you just wanna like, fuck around and show off. Lately I have been cutting up other people’s work for my own use. Most recently, a .jpeg of a Cecily Brown painting that I cut up to form into mountains in a desert landscape I was working on. Some people could see that as a troll but I don’t believe in art emergencies and I don’t believe in art outrage. Especially in the context of intellectual property and/or appropriation. If you think about what I work with as just pixels, then pushing pixels around a .jpeg of a painting is not any different than pushing “original” pixels around or starting from scratch. Often people mistake trolling for an insult when it’s really actually a form of respect.
I feel like we’re similar in age and generation, one which is unique specifically in its relationship to the internet and its tools. My sister is a couple of years younger than me, and her relationship to defaults is way more accepting. Whereas I was old enough to be there for the switch between analog to digital. I could still change the defaults, or I could learn through pretty basic coding. I don’t even like to call it coding beause really it’s just fucking around.
Anything on a computer, you know, you can manipulate—if you have the file, whereas a smartphone is this locked thing. Sure, you could jailbreak it but...
...It’s so much harder.
Right. Why even take the time to do something like that? There was a certain time where you could make very customized modifications with everything... like pimping your MySpace (lol).
Absolutely, I think about that a lot. People sometimes ask me how I got into what I do, and I just think to myself, “I dunno, I had a LiveJournal and I wanted to change the background color.”
Exactly. You could just Google basic scripts and make a big impact aesthetically with one line of code.
I remember my first LiveJournal post was literally a troll to a friend of mine who had been trying to get a LiveJournal code for a year.
Oh yeah, I remember it was super hard to get one of those.
Yeah, it was locked because it was in beta! And then I got one from like, my younger sister’s friend. Then I customized my thing, and my first post was just like... “Look, bitch!” [laughter] and I sent her a link to it. I probably spent hours trying to change it and make it funny, to get this blinking text. In some of your videos, I recognize that kind of playfulness but also the inherent critique. There’s a manipulation of readymade tools.
I’m a big fan of learning 10-25% of what I need to know to execute a final product. I want to exert as little as possible to get the maximal effect and to get an idea out quickly. I don’t really care about mastery in that way. The mastery comes from doing it again and again for years, not tweaking out on one specific project. But the more I think about trolling, it was always a way for me to deal with (the problem) of being a woman on the internet. You cannot have a meek personality if you want to have any kind of presence. If you use your own image you should be aware of the consequences because that is the reality. To read the comments on my video and act surprised me , like: “Oh goodness! What are these people saying!” I always had the policy to respond in a way that was equal-to-or-greater-than however bad the thing someone would say to me was. I learned how to speak (or maybe type) like this on forums which operated as a trolling bootcamp. Of course there is a difference between being a troll and being malicious. Breaking balls and having a laugh is a form of bonding and human connection: you wouldn’t mean most of the stuff you say. You can’t do anything like that now—play with language without people getting very upset. Nuance is dead.
One of the leading post-internet artists, Cortright creates a site-specific installation utilizing Doota’s commercial nature and the surrounding urban landscape. Skinning the shop windows of Doota are her new digital paintings filled with California imagery such as palm trees and succulents in contrast to the hyper-futuristic backdrop of Seoul city center. Her paintings originate as intricate Adobe Photoshop files which consist of layers of digital brush strokes and altered photographs. These files can be transformed indefinitely—layers can be turned on or off, reordered, repositioned, and various effects applied, so at moments which she calls “decisive,” the artist prints, and therefore immobilizes them.
Carefully interspersed throughout the main courtyard are seventeen flags, each standing 4-meters tall and presenting images from three flash animations in her archive, Clouds Over the Ocean_upsidedownwithstuckseagull _snowseagulls_looksgood2_NOlineup_withLucyfall_mute_blkbg_wide_60tops.swf, 1@ccess1!2!!3.!ut, and schiefler-descramblers_2805.XAP, previously exhibited at Depart Foundation in Los Angeles. The flash animations feature strippers that Cortright screen-captured from a PC program called Virtuagirl, in which users can purchase strippers that dance when the computer goes into screensaver mode. Understandably, Cortright’s choice for the content reproduced in forms of flags may ring controversial as public art installation, but the choice is central to her body of work. A large portion of conversations on the Internet questions the place of women within the digital ecosystem, both as consumers and as creators. One particularly volatile area concerns the digital representation of the female body, especially in the context of a male gaze that has historically been more powerful than that of its counterpart.
Cortright’s computer-based practice pioneered a new kind of internet art. The videos in the show will trace the gradual evolution of her online presence, and a practice of perpetual modulation of over ten year of internet ephemera that mines decorative motifs from flowers to the female body. The archival impulse behind her work stresses the visual catchiness and mutability of the digital image, as well as the delicate and self-conscious act of putting oneself “online.” As an artist who “grew up on the internet,” Cortright carefully erects and investigates online trends of personhood as they appear in the culture, from the front-facing camera antics of solipsistic young girls on social media to virtual strippers.
In the back gallery, Cortright’s mind_candy_pfaffs (2015) will loop on a projector. This thornily feminist video depicts cookie-cutter girls from the software VirtuaGirl, “a unique technology of video incrustation that displays videos of sexy girls directly on your taskbar, with no background, just as if they were living inside of your screen.”
The aesthetic of Cortright’s DIY one-woman videos—in which she plays variations of the director, star, and video editor—feels intimately homemade, more akin to a patchwork quilt than an appropriative collage of raw pixels. The work is created using myriad technologies, from open-source screensaver software, green screens, virtual strippers and photoshop, to sublime CGI landscapes. It’s cut down to two-minute experiences, self-referentially ideal for internet consumption by an audience riddled with attention deficit disorders. Her distinctive digital bricolage investigates investigates an ongoing conversation about vanity, personhood, and beauty through the lens of the internet.
die Rose includes two webcam videos, products of Cortright’s ongoing collaboration with fashion designer Stella McCartney. Whereas these two videos are on view for the first time here, McCartney has circulated other videos from the collaboration via social media in addition to showing them in stores around the world. To make the videos, Cortright poses in front of the camera similarly to how she’s been doing for over a decade—now wearing clothes sent to her by McCartney—and then processes the result through different software programs.
For her digital paintings like those found in die Rose, Cortright works for sessions lasting up to 12 hours on Adobe Photoshop. She builds layer upon layer, each time drawing a color, a texture, a shape, etc. from an existing image that she finds surfing Google Images or, more recently, Pinterest. She paints using some brushes that she’s developed herself and others that she’s downloaded. The resulting Photoshop file will contain a couple hundred layers. In order to produce a painting, Cortright will select which layers should be visible, and in which order. Each of the paintings in die Rose derive from the same Photoshop file; however, each represents a different combination of layers and has been printed on a different physical substrate.
Cortright took the same file she used to produce the three digital paintings and then ran the layers through Adobe After Effects—a digital visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing program—to produce the video Block dissassemble
The flags on view have also been printed with variations of the file.
NIKI, LUCY, LOLA, VIOLA featured a series of new video works and animations by Petra Cortright, compiled from open-source, screensaver software, and purchased virtual strippers. “Niki,” “Lucy,” “Lola,” and “Viola” are the virtual erotic dancers Cortright purchased from readily available online software to populate her own synthetic and painterly landscapes and green screen voids. Presented within an immersive installation environment, which will include atmospheric audio components, these works self-consciously offer an infinite virtual redundancy in their repetition and absence of real-time.
sapphire cinnamon viper fairy, Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs
ultra angel wing absolute, Foxy Production, New York
icy dip fresh petals, Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens San Clemente, California
von ammon co, Washington, DC
Jet fuel gelato sour cherry, L21, Barcelona
BALEAF GYS AKADEMIKS maamgic BROKIG, Société, Berlin
Predator Swamping, 1301 PE, Los Angeles
Spiced Diamond Pool Earn 4x Points, COUNTY Gallery, Palm Beach
ZUCCHETTE VETTII, L21, Mallorca
Rouge Vif d’Ètampes, Brigade, Copenhagen
borderline aurora borealis, Team Gallery, New York
Petra Cortright, Danziger Gallery, New York
Computer Paintings on Linen, Galeria Duarte Sequeira, Braga
LUCKY DUCK LIGHTS OUT, 1301 PE, Los Angeles
Platinum Blonde Black Knight, Société, Berlin
BEUTYFOL GIRLS XEROX DESERT ROSE, Doota Plaza, Seoul
Cultural Matter: Petra Cortright, LIMA, Amsterdam
PALE COIL COLD ANGEL, Nahmad Projects, London
Petra Cortright and Marc Horowitz, BANK Gallery, Shanghai
CAM WORLS, UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles
lambergani lambirgini lamborghini lambourgini, Ever Gold [Projects], San Francisco
HUMAN SHEEP BRAIN “ALICE IN WONDERLAND” AMERICANA, Foxy Production, New York
RUNNING NEO-GEO GAMES UNDER MAME, City Gallery, Wellington
RUNNING NEO-GEO GAMES UNDER MAME, Tristian Koenig, Melbourne, Australia
“kinder surprise” sharky baba, COUNTY Gallery, Palm Beach
quack doctor violet „saltwater fish“, 1301PE, Los Angeles
ORANGE BLOSSOM PRINCESS FUCKING BUTTERCUP, Carl Kostyál, London
DIE ROSE, Société, Berlin
ZERO-DAY DARLING, Ever Gold [Projects], San Francisco
Octopus 16: Antiques Roadshow, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne
Niki, Lucy, Lola, Viola, Depart Foundation, Los Angeles
Ily, Foxy Production, New York
PETWELT, Société, Berlin
Petra Cortright, Carl Kostyal, Stockholm
ASMR, MAMA, Rotterdam
Family State of Mind, Petra Cortright & Ed Fornieles, Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris
BLank BLANk bLANk, Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles
Vicky deep in Spring Valley, Club Midnight, Berlin
Void Mastery / Blank Control, The Composing Rooms: The Green Room, London
Video Syrup, Curated by Maggie Lee, Spectacle Theater, New York
Beholder, Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh
SO WET, Preteen Gallery, Mexico City
Lesbian Kiss Episode, Planet Ummo, Project Space, Mexico City
It Takes Strength to be Gentle and Kind, Gloria Maria Gallery, Milan
Avatar 4D, Curated by JstChillin, NOMA Gallery, San Francisco
Tits Vagina Sex Nude Boobs Britney Spears Paris Hilton Jordan Capri Honey Moon, Preteen Gallery, Mexico City
Show #20, Petra Cortright & Peter Barrickman, And/Or Gallery, Dallas 010
A Leap into the Void. Art beyond Matter, GAMeC, Bergamo
Refreshing the Loop, Museum of the Moving Image, NYC
Search Engines, MoMA Collection gallery, New York
Summer Group Exhibition, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara
Spatial Affairs, Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest
The Light Between Us, Kadist Video Library Online Video Exhibition, kadist.org
Body Snatchers (The Church), Church of San Giuseppe, Polignano A Mare
Studio Visit, The Centre d’Art Contemporain Genéve, Geneva
In bed with a mosquito, Galeria Duarte Sequeira, Portugal
Slippery Painting, Starkwhite, New Zealand
The Body Electric, Museum of Art and Design, Miami
Dade College, traveling exhibition, Walker Art Center, Miami
MoMA Virtual Views: Video Lives, MoMA, New York
PAINT, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago
In the Meanwhile…Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara
Glitch, The American University in Cairo, Tahrir Cultural Center, Cairo
Permanent Collection display, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Petra Cortright, Elizabeth Ibarra and Susumu Kamijo, Aliso Editions x The Newsstand Project, Los Angeles
Plugged-in Paintings, SITE131, Dallas
HATE SPEECH – AGGRESSION UND INTIMITÄT, Künstlerhaus, KM – Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz
Now Playing: Video 1999-2019, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale
The Body Electric, traveling exhibition, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis ;
Yerba Buena, Center for the Arts, San Francisco
Dirty Protest: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Primary Directives, Marlborough Contemporary, London
Midnight Moment, Times Square Arts, New York
ACE / art on sports, promise, and selfhood, University Art Museum, University at Albany, Albany
PINK_PARA_1STCHOICE, Times Square’s Electronic Billboards, New York
Par amour du jeu, Magasins généraux, Pantin
I Was Raised on the Internet, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
4th Ural Industrial Biennial Of Contemporary Art, Curated by João Ribas, Ekaterinburg and other cities of the Ural region
Wave, County, Palm Beach
The Coverly Set, Sargent’s Daughters, New York
Web 2.0., Organized by Paul Slocum and Thierry Tilquin, Senne
Discoveries, Art Basel Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Shift, Stretch, Expand: Everyday Transformations, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbra, Santa Barbara
Chatham Square, Foxy Production, New York
Electronic Superhighway, Curated by Omar Kholeif, Whitechapel Gallery, London
Always-On, Curated by Steffen Köhn and Prof. Matthias Krings, Schule des Sehens, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz
Full of Peril and Weirdness: Painting as Universalism, Curated by Robin Peckham and Wan Wan Lei, M WOODS, Beijing
Normal Reality, Curated by Jason Judd, University Galleries of Illinois State University, Illinois
Young Americans, Franz-Josef-Kai 3, Vienna
Catfish, Anat Ebgi Gallery, Los Angeles
The Metabolic Age, Curated by Chus Martinez, MALBA, Buenos Aires
On YouTube. Kunst und Playlists aus 10 Jahren, Kunsthaus Langenthal, Langenthal
First Look: Brushes, New Museum, New York
L’art et le numérique en résonance 1/3 : Convergence, La Maison Populaire de Montreuil, Montreuil
Im Inneren der Stadt, Künstlerhaus Bremen, Bremen
Farm to Table, Foxy Production, New York
Fútbol: The Beautiful Game, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Too Soon, Perry Rubenstein Gallery, Los Angeles
Liquid Crystal Palace: Recent Works with J. Blake,Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles
The Undulation of Something Faintly Familiar, Anat Egbi, Los Angeles
Art Post-Internet, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing
Material Images, Johannes Vogt, New York
Full Screen, XPO, Paris
You Might Be a Dog, Lab for Emerging Arts and Performance, Berlin
E Vapor 8, Site Gallery, Sheffield
Casting a Wide Net, Postmasters, New York
Paddles On!, Curated by L. Howard, Philips, New York
„D“, ZweiDrei, Berlin
Frieze Film, Curated by N. Lees and Victoria Brooks, Frieze London, London
Meanwhile…Suddenly and Then,12th Biennale de Lyon, Lyon
Lonely Girl, Curated by A., Martos Gallery, New York
Sneakererotics: Further Material for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Curated by R. Peckham, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong
Art Baja Tijuana, Casa GS, Tijuana
Things That Turn Your Brain to Mush, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara
ZonaMACO, Steve Turner Contemporary, Mexico City
E-Vapor-8, Curated by F. Gavin, 319 Scholes, New York
Ex-Girlfriends in the Age of Drones, Curated by U. Tittel, Naherholung Strenchen, Berlin
December, De Joode & Kamutzki Winter Auction, Berlin
LikeArtBasel, Miami Art Basel, Curated by R. Ripps, Sponsored by Artspace, Miami
Notes on a New Nature, Curated by N. O’Brien, 319 Scholes, New York
PDF, Curated by P. Gantert, Allegra LaViola Gallery, New York
Empty Orchestra, Curated by G. Park and S. Rodgers, Eastside Projects, Birmingham Contemporary Art Forum, Birmingham
Collect the WWWorld: The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age, Curated by D. Quaranta, Settimana dell’Arte, Brescia
Life on the Screen, Curated by P. Bard, RE/Mixed Media Festival, New York
Keepin’it real, Curated by R. Juan, HungryMan Gallery, Chicago
3 Screenings: Eruption, Curated by E. Fleischauser and J. McLean, Backspace Collective, Peoria
Video Village 2011: New Media Expeditions, Curated by N. Collier and S. Szerlip, Index Art Center, Newark
Life on the Screen, Curated by P. Bard, Joyce Yahouda Gallery, Montreal
Graphics Interchange Format, Curated by P. Johnson, Mulberry Gallery, Denison University, Granville
Getting Closer, Fe Arts Gallery, Pittsburgh
Internet Livre, SESC Ribeirao Preto, Sao Paulo
BYOB LA, Gayle & Ed Roski MFA Gallery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Sister Sister City, Curated by Lindsay Lawson, Thomas Solomon Gallery, Cottage Home, Los Angeles
Domain: Webkam, Live Performance in collaboration with Rhizome.org, SJ01 Biennial, San Jose
Do I Know You, Inman Gallery, Houston
Today and Tomorrow’s 5th Birthday Speed Show, or@nin net Internet cafe, Berlin
Made in Internet, Curated by M. Ramocki, Artbook Festival, Krakow
VHS AIDS, Preteen Gallery, Hermosillo
Multiplex, Curated by VVORK, Peer to Space Sun Galleries, Munich
Surfing Club, Plug.in Gallery, Basel
Surfing Club, Espace Multimedia Gantner, Bourogne
MiArt Art Now!, Milan Art Fair, Gloria Maria Gallery, Milan
The Brakhage Center Symposium, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder
Playlist, Neoncampbase, Bologna
CIRCA PR, Art Fair with Preteen Gallery, San Juan
Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Showroom Mama, Rotterdam
No Hay Banda, Reference Galllery, Richmond
Funny Games, Curated by J. James, Load of Fun Gallery, Baltimore
Spun 2: art light noise new video art, Monkeytown, New York
The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, Rapture Heap, Liberty Corner, Dublin
My Biennale Is Better Than Yours, Xth Biennale de Lyon, Lyon
Screen Grab, The Nightingale Theatre, Chicago
Speed Conference Call Dating, Envoy Enterprises, New York
SALLYS, Atelier Kreuzberg, Berlin
PROMO Billboard Np3, Groningen
New Wave, The Internet Pavilion, The Venice Biennale, Venice
The New Easy, Artnews Projects, Berlin
VVork Show, Munich
Treasure Room, Organised by Loshadka, Light Industry, New York
IRL presented by iheartphotograph, Organised by Loshadka, Capricious space, New York
Get Fucked, Alogon Gallery, Chicago
Endless Pot of Gold CD-Rs (with Nasty Nets), Sundance International Film Festival, Park City
This is a Magazine: Episode 26, Curated by C. Agnello, Documentation Center For Visual Arts, Milan
The New Easy, Amsterdam
Netmares, Netdreams V 3.0, Current Gallery, Baltimore
Young Curators, New Ideas, Bond Street Gallery, New York
This is a Magazine: Video Object 23, Milan
Build A Fire, Plexus Contemporary, Louisville
Lizard Gear, Organised by Loshadka, MTAA’s OTO, New York
New York Underground Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, New York
B I T M A P: as good as new, Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University, Philadelphia
B I T M A P: as good as new, vertexList, New York
The Sims: In the Hands of Artists, Chelsea at Museum, New York
Nasty Nets Event, Telic Arts Exchange, Los Angeles