‘Art Makes New Spaces’: Watch How Artist Lucas Blalock Uses Photoshop as His Digital Darkroom

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "New York Close Up" film, "Lucas Blalock's Digital Toolkit." © Art21, Inc. 2015.

In his Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio, artist Lucas Blalock clicks furiously with his right hand as his left hand dances across the keyboard. “There’s been an anxiety about, ‘Why would you make another picture now?’ ‘What’s the point?’ ‘There are pictures of everything already,'” he says, never once looking up at the camera filming him as part of Art21’s exclusive interview series, “New York Close Up.”

He’s right: there are pictures of everything, mixed and remixed to the point of absurdity. Yet Blalock is still at it, using technology not just as a tool to enhance his art practice, but also to comment on the state of our world—and, yes, to make even more pictures.

The native of Asheville, North Carolina has just opened his first solo museum show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, where 20 works created over the past five years are on view. The photographs are surreal and quirky compositions that the artist made by manipulating many of the most basic functions of Photoshop, a program he has come to use as a “digital darkroom.” 

Production still from the Art21 “New York Close Up” film, “Lucas Blalock’s Digital Toolkit.” © Art21, Inc. 2015.

Blalock was inspired to push the program’s boundaries after reading Bertolt Brecht’s seminal text On Theater, which advocates for showing the audience all of the practices that are usually hidden backstage. “I started to think about the kinds of labor I was hiding,” Blalock told Art21. “There are all these ways to hide your labor in Photoshop. I’d been really interested in undermining those things.” 

His photographs have clearly been edited, but instead of “photoshopping” his works to look more dramatically lit or perfectly staged, Blalock latches onto the natural discrepancies of a photograph and magnifies them using tools like the Clone Stamp or Eraser Tool.

“I believe in art because it makes new spaces,” he tells Art21 as he reconstitutes a self-portrait, adding sets of lips onto his face. The result makes a slightly disturbing but amusing nod to artists like George Condo and René Magritte. “Even in the goofiest, most ridiculous way,” he says, “aesthetics is a way of unpacking possibility.”

Production still from the Art21 “New York Close Up” film, “Lucas Blalock’s Digital Toolkit.” © Art21, Inc. 2015.


Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. “Lucas Blalock: An Enormous Oar” is on view at the ICA, Los Angeles through July 21, 2019.  

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television series is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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