Artists Shaping the Digital Canvas

Janelle Zara

We are living in what feels like a Renaissance. The rules have changed. Power has shifted to a burgeoning breed of digitally minded who shape our present and will code our future. Here, we snapshot a few of the artists shaping the digital canvas.

Petra Cortright @PETCORTRIGHT

Cortright’s Void Mastery / Blank Control, 2011

BY THE NUMBERS:  Petra Cortright is an inimitable force on the Internet, producing trailblazing web-based art for nearly a decade. She’s the ultimate California girl, regularly posting photos of her day trips to her hometown of Santa Barbara and outfits from her friend and collaborator, fashion designer Stella McCartney.

DIGITAL PIONEER:  Cortright is renowned for making self-portrait videos that use her computer’s webcam and default effects tools, which she then uploads to YouTube. In 2011, the company removed her video VVEBCAM for violating their terms of service. Cortright’s transgression was the use of 733 keywords in the video description, including “tits, nude, boobs” and “taco bell, mcdonalds, kentucky fried chicken, trans fat.” The video is archived on’s ArtBase.

EARLY ADOPTER:  At the age of 22, Cortright was included in “Montage: Unmonumental Online,” an exhibition for the New Museum, organized by Lauren Cornell and curated by Marisa Olson.

–Lindsay Howard



Cultured Magazine FebMarch 2016 Sarah Meyohas

WEB APPLICATIONS:  Every day for the duration of her performative exhibition at 303 Gallery, Sarah Meyohas sat at a desk in the middle of the space making stock trades via an online broker. Then she would transcribe the movements of the stocks onto canvas, essentially manipulating the market for visual purposes. “The day trader wants to buy low, sell high,” says Meyohas. “I don’t care as much about that as conveying a sense of drama in the line.” Her collectors include not only art fans, but also finance managers.

BROWSING HISTORY:  Meyohas first grabbed headlines by exploring the financial applications of the Internet when she unveiled BitchCoin—a digital currency backed by her photographs (as Meyohas grows more famous, and the value of the photo rises, so does the currency)—at Where gallery in Brooklyn. “I’ve gotten more attention than I anticipated, because nobody else is talking about finance,” she says. “I liken it to Pop Art talking about commodification; I’m making art that talks about financialization in a similar way.”

WHEN IT CLICKED:  “Richard Prince was one of my critics at Yale. It’s so funny that he, of all people, was the one who took a liking to my work. He introduced me to Lisa Spellman [of 303 Gallery].”

–Maxwell Williams


Takeshi Murata @takeshimurata

Cultured Magazine FebMarch 2016 Takeshi Murata OM Passenger 2015

A still from Murata’s OM Passenger, 2015. Courtesy of Daata Editions.

WHEN IT CLICKED: It wasn’t until “Black Box: Takeshi Murata,” his landmark solo show at the Hirshhorn Museum, that the pioneering glitch artist felt the full power of institutional support. The museum’s subsequent purchase and installation of videos like Pink Dot (2006) signaled a shift in attitude towards digital animations and glitch inside the art world. “The Hirshhorn did feel like the big one, but I got gallery support first,” says Murata. “Institutional support has been really important, but it’s hard. I’ve talked to other artists who don’t work with materials that are very easy to sell. It’s great for the bigger shows but it’s harder to actually make a living.”

EARLY ADOPTER: Murata began animating and toying with film as an undergraduate at the Rhode Island School of Design. “It was something that I grew up admiring. It seemed like a natural medium to adopt.”

–Kat Herriman



Cultured Magazine FebMarch 2016 Trevor Paglen They Watch the Moon 2010

Paglen’s They Watch the Moon, 2010.


WEB APPLICATIONS:  Trevor Paglen is basically the art world’s flashlight on a planet that is increasingly shadowy. Using photography, text-based work and sculpture, Paglen has shone that light on classified satellites in the night sky, code words used by the National Security Agency and military black sites. But for Paglen, the goal isn’t to decode or help viewers visualize these hidden subjects. “It’s not really about trying to make sense of it,” he says. “For me, it’s more about directing one’s attention towards things.”

BROWSING HISTORY:  For Paglen’s 2012 The Last Pictures project, 100 photographs depicting human civilization were attached to a satellite and launched into orbit—the assumption being that satellites will be here long after everything else is gone. And his latest project, last year’s Trinity Cube, was installed in the closed area near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and will be seen by the public once radiation levels become safe. It’s an art-cum-tech approach that pushes the boundaries of the knowledge art can generate.

WHEN IT CLICKED:  Paglen’s Ph.D. in geography from Berkeley along with his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago has led to a wide-ranging career. He contributed to Laura Poitras’ Academy Award-winning documentary Citizenfour, received the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and has had solo exhibitions at Metro Pictures in New York and Altman Siegel in San Francisco.

–Maxwell Williams



Cultured Magazine FebMarch 2016 Sara Ludy

Portrait by ©Sarah Huntington.

BY THE NUMBERS:   More than 125,000 people visited Sara Ludy’s seminal work WALLPAPERS during its six-month run at the Vancouver Art Gallery. A collaborative project with artists Nicolas Sassoon and Sylvain Sailly, the exhibition featured an immersive installation comprised of floor-to-ceiling video works.

EARLY ADOPTER:  Ludy graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has had great support from her Chicago network. Artist, critic, and fellow SAIC alum Nicholas O’Brien was one of the first to review Ludy’s practice for a publication, and has since acquired a number of her video works. She has a strong collector base, which includes art world influencers such as Megan Newcome of Phillips auction house and Helene Winer of Metro Pictures.

–Lindsay Howard


Addie Wagenknecht @WHERESADDIE

Cultured Magazine FebMarch 2016 Addie Wagenknecht

Portrait by Michael Clinard.

DIGITAL PIONEER:  Wagenknecht pioneered the process for painting with drones in 2007 while she was a resident at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center.

WHEN IT CLICKED:  “The most significant career moment happened when my CCTV chandelier was the top-selling lot at ‘Paddles ON!,’ the first digital art auction at Phillips. I woke up the next morning to emails from galleries and curators wanting to represent and congratulate me.”

EARLY ADOPTER:  Anita Zabludowicz, the influential collector and philanthropist, was one of the first people to approach Wagenknecht. Since then, Wagenknecht has developed a strong network of collectors, including Robert Bielecki, David Diamond, Benjamin Palmer and Kevin Slavin.

–Lindsay Howard


Michael Manning @MIRRRRORING

Cultured Magazine FebMarch 2016 Michael Manning

Portrait by Ben Kennedy.

BY THE NUMBERS:  Michael Manning is a prolific artist who frequently produces multiple works under the umbrella of a single concept. He’s a regular contributor to Phone Arts, an international collective of artists who create work on their mobile devices.

DIGITAL PIONEER:  Manning’s paintings are created on a computer using software that simulates the physical painting experience. Thick oils smear and blend naturally, and materials react to the texture of the canvas. They are then printed on canvas, to which he applies acrylic with a palette knife. The result is a combination of two paintings: the first, digitally rendered in bright pastel colors, fusing with the other, a transparent composition intended to bestow physicality and gesture.

OUTSIDE THE BOX:  In 2013, Manning started going into Microsoft retail stores and painting on display tablets, which led to the Microsoft Store Painting series. That same year, Manning created the Sheryl Crow Pandora Paintings, a series of works painted by hand on a touch screen, digitally printed on canvas, covered in clear acrylic, and titled after songs featured on Sheryl Crow Pandora Radio.

–Lindsay Howard



Camille Henrot @COELOCANTHE

Cultured Magazine FebMarch 2016 Camille Henrot Warren B 2015

Henrot’s Warren B, 2015. Courtesy of Metro Pictures New York.

WEB APPLICATIONS:  Using film, sculpture and drawing, Camille Henrot explores, well, pretty much everything. Her 2015 exhibition at Metro Pictures, for instance, tackled dependency—drugs, love, family, technology—by placing 3-D-printed telephones throughout the gallery that featured crisis hotline-like messages on the other end.

BROWSING HISTORY:  At the Venice Biennale in 2013, Henrot showed Grosse Fatigue, a 13-minute video in which the artist’s computer desktop is used as a platform to attempt to explain the history of the universe. The visually overwhelming work—meditative, grand and deserving of repeated viewings—earned her the Biennale’s Silver Lion award for promising newcomer.

WHEN IT CLICKED:  Henrot asserts that she only uses technology because it has permeated every level of human communication, and rarely addresses it as a subject in her work. Nevertheless, she won the 2014 Nam June Paik Award, an international media art prize. She is preparing a large-scale solo show at Palais de Tokyo set for February 2017.

–Maxwell Williams



BY THE NUMBERS:  Equipped with code as one of his principal tools, Leo Villareal is a sculptor of digitally choreographed light. The Bay Lights, a site-specific work, permanently illuminates the Bay Bridge to epic proportions: 1.8 miles long and 500 feet high, using 25,000 LED lights that seem to dance.

DIGITAL PIONEER:  He created his very first light sculpture at Burning Man in 1997. It was a wayfinding device that consisted of 16 strobe lights and a microcontroller. “Initially I didn’t even recognize it as an artwork,” he says. “Eventually it became apparent to me that I was onto something special in the combination of software, light and space.”

EARLY ADOPTER:  Villareal considers one of his first big breaks a 2003 installation on the facade of MoMA PS1. “It was then that I realized the power public art has to communicate with a huge audience.”

—Janelle Zara