See the Best Artists on Vine Before It Dies

Vine Art was a real thing, it was huge, and this is what it looked like.

Vine Art star Reno Shaw says goodbye. Image via @RenoShaw.
Vine Art star Reno Shaw says goodbye. Image via @RenoShaw.

Despite its millions of users, the death of Vine probably won’t seem like a huge tragedy to the fine art world, which seems to greatly prefer the slickness and clarity of Instagram. Vine’s looping, six-second format was probably too constraining.

Utah-based photographer and designer Tom Shea, creator of surreal clips like the one below, more or less summed up the aesthetic limbo that Vine seemed to be in back in 2014, in an interview for the Creators Project:

I’ve heard many differing opinions referring to Vine as a possible art form, for and against this idea. Some seem to think that, because it’s an app on your phone, it can’t be taken too seriously. I’d like to think they just haven’t seen the effort some Viners put into creating their work and making something beautiful, magical or thought provoking. Also, the fact that it’s just a six second looping video to me is genius, with the looping feature being the most important of many features for it to work the way it does. The ideas and possibilities are endless.

At the time, Shea lamented that people saw Vine as mainly a vehicle for humor, but expressed hope in the rise of Brooklyn’s Vine Art Symposium.

Some of the most interesting characters hang out in limbo, though. Vine may have never broken through to the museum and gallery scene in a big way, but what it did produce was its own parallel type of art scene, its very own strangely pungent subculture of Vine Artists.

For a time, my favorite was Keelayjams, aka Kyle M. F. Williams, an artist who became somewhat Internet famous a few years ago when he Tweeted out his password, letting the Internet take over his accounts.

Keelayjams had his own iconography that I could recognize almost instantly—lots of pizzas, saxophones, Razr phones, anthropomorphized heads of lettuce, and strange homages to Kurt Cobain, Lindsay Lohan, and Shia LaBeof. He remixed these into non-sequitur stunts that had something of the flavor of Erwin Wurm’s “One-Minute Sculptures:”

Here’s one titled My Interns Are Late for Work and Obviously Hungover:

Here’s Kate Moss and Some Michael Jordan:

And here’s the climactic chapter of a three-part series, Lana del Rey in Every Frame at Bed, Bath, and Beyond:

It was worth keeping Vine on the phone just to see what Keelayjams was up to. But Williams hasn’t posted since 2015.

“Vine” featured “Art” as one of its channels. “Vine Artist” was enough of a thing that it actually got its own category in the so-called Shorty Awards, the self-styled Oscars of social media—making Vine unique, as far as I can tell, in generating its own category of artist.

This year’s Shortys, held back in April, gave the nod to Zach King, aka FinalCutKing, the entrepreneurial filmmaker and social media star with a billion-plus “loops” on Vine.

King has parlayed this Vine fame into a book, just optioned by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, and a spot on the Amazing Race. His Vine Artist victory came for fare that I’d say is fairly typical example of what did really well on Vine, and maybe  the kind of jocular stuff that Tom Shea thought kept Vine from breaking through to fine-art legitimacy. Take this clip showing off his “soda jetpack:”

Or this more meta tribute to the Vine interface:

Or this true masterpiece with his cat:

Against the King juggernaut, the competition didn’t stand a chance, but the other nominees for 2016 “Vine Artist” show a range of possibilities for what Vine Art could be.

The most old-fashion, media-wise, might be Alex Evans, aka Alex Draws, who described his work as a mix of “MC Escher etchings and contemporary graphic design.” His Vines focused on close-ups of his own ink drawings, conjuring cities and jittery abstract landscapes:

Columbia, South Carolina-based Gerald Andal, on the other hand, used his stop-motion videos to conjure the adventures of an animated alterego, “RGB:”

Kayla Christine, from Oregon, makes what she calls “subdued, sleepy, hipster traipses through the woods.” They grow out of an ongoing video diary project to illustrate her resilience in the face of Crohn’s disease:

Manhattan photographer Meagan Cignoli’s Shorty bio proudly dubbed her the “queen of branded Vines,” boasting mercenary Vine work for Google, GE, Veuve Clicquot, Ikea, and Disney. Her more personal fare looked something like this:

And finally, there was the well-liked Reno Shaw, who describes what he does, in part, as a “parody of French performance art.” This one is actually pretty cool:

As far as I can tell, the “Vine Artist” category was a relatively new honor. At last year’s Shortys, the honor was shared out between San Francisco artist Ian Padgham, and Austin’s Alicia Herber.

Padgham specializes in stop-motion opuses like this one:

Though I prefer his more baroque recent work:

As for Herber, she was known for the likes of this fine ode to the melting popsicle, Summertime Feelz:

All this is certainly very creative. Should you call it art, or does it deserve some other category all its own? Best not to dwell on the question: It was Vine Art, which rhymes with fine art, and that’s pretty much good enough.

At any rate, Twitter’s “Art” channel is awash today with laments for its end. I’ll let Reno Shaw take us out:

 


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