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What is the importance of art history?

What is the importance of art history?

I have always enjoyed history in general.  When I was in college, more than 20 years ago, I took a Modern Art History Class taught by John Seed.  The art history classrooms at Art Center were modest. About twenty feet by thirty feet. White walls, chairs, concrete floors.  No windows. One door. About twenty of us shuffled past a large Max Hering original each week to lock ourselves in this little white box. John Seed, a tall man, would swiftly enter the center of the front of the room almost in a single stride.  With a little salt in his blond hair and a beaming smile he would dim the lights and we would begin our travels back in time.  

As I remember, Seed began his talk about modern art with Gustav Corbet.  He noted that it was Corbet's brash and unapologetic commitment to his ideas that truly ushered in the attitude that would become modern art. John Seed’s off the cuff knowledge of all the major figures of the 18th and 19th century was so dyed in the wool, it was as if he knew the individuals personally.  And some he did.

One of the things that has stuck with me was that Seed knew Basquiat personally.  Basquiat painted a portrait of Seed entitled “White Sambo Gringo” —not a flattering portrait.  Seed was working for the Larry Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles at the time. Basquiat did not like Seed.  Seed also admitted that even though he did not like Basquiat personally, he recognized his contribution to art.  A true champion for the arts Seed instilled my deep respect for Basquiat’s work.

John Seed introduced me to the idea that art is, has been, and will be a conversation that takes place over time, over multiple people.  He did this by chronologically explaining the narrative of modern art, from one artist to another, over fourteen weeks of lectures. He brought the artists alive through his stories of their lives and slides of their important work.  He connected the narrative from Corbet to the present in my mind. He also gave me the basic tools to research art in the future.

An art history class should provide what John Seed’s class provided to me.  It should inspire you to participate in the ongoing conversation that is visual art.  

Why do I paint paintings I call Glitch Art?

I have been calling some of my paintings glitch art since 2015. I have been calling them my artwork for other artists.  For me glitch art has been what John Seed has defined as Disrupted Realism. I was happy to discover my former art history teacher, John Seed, has just published a book titled Disrupted Realism: Paintings for a Distracted World.  It is a definitive book on the movement to date (2019). It’s really been a treasure for me to read and will undoubtedly influence my painting in the future.  Reading it feels like I am back in my art history class. 

Disrupted Realism is an art movement.  I am happy that this movement inspires the teacher who taught me to love art history.  It inspires me as well. I became interested in this type of art when I came across Justin Bowers (page 52-55) artwork at the Unix Gallery in New York in 2015. When I came across the painting, it furthered my understanding of painting beyond anything I had seen or could understand to date.  Looking at Bower’s work inspired my own exploration of this idea. It seemed to be combining the elements of abstract expressionism and computer image glitches.  There was a sense of urban clutter and disturbing visions of the future that I couldn't quite explain. I felt it was connected to a zeitgeist changing in society during this time and the future seemed technology driven and disturbing.   I named the paintings I made Dystopic Selfies. I felt the paintings conveyed the morbid feeling I got by looking at society via social media. From 2015 to the present, I have noticed other painters immersed in the movement, and yet I did not completely understand how to contextualize it. 

John Seed’s book is a manifesto for Disrupted Realism and all glitch artists who want to work on their art beyond the surface level beauty.  He has found and interviewed many painters who have fully immersed themselves in Disrupted Realism.  The types of artists who inspire me to paint! Movements require critics that interpret what emerges in art.  John Seed has studied this movement and has been able to give context to the key ideas. I encourage everyone interested in this movement to own this book.

What does glitch mean? 

According to Merriam-Webster a glitch is defined as a usually minor malfunction.  A minor problem that causes a temporary setback. A false or spurious electronic signal. 

What is the first documented use of glitch in English?

The technological world is still relatively new and it is only in recent decades where we have evolved and improved technology as we see it today. The 1960s was a time when we saw technology move to new heights and in particular, it was a time when NASA was making great strides. It was through their desire to put man into space that the word was popularized by NASA engineers and astronauts. Into Orbit, which is a 1962 account of Project Mercury, showcases the first published use of the word glitch. It relates to faults that were experienced by engineers and astronauts with the technology that they were using. This includes the spaceship and the rocket hardware that formed part of the project.

“Another term we adopted to describe some of our problems was ‘glitch’.  Literally, a glitch is a spike or change in voltage in an electrical circuit which takes place when the circuit suddenly has a new load put on it.  You have probably noticed a momentary dimming of the lights in your home when you turn a switch or put on the television set. Normally these changes in voltage are protected by fuses.  A glitch, however, is such a minute change in voltage that no fuse could protect against it.” -John Glenn, Into Orbit, 1962

What is Glitch Art?

We have all heard of the word “Glitch”, especially in the technologically advanced world that we live in today. Glitches are commonly seen on television screens or computer screens and they effectively break-up or fracture the image that we see. For many, this might be a frustration but for others, the word glitch has brought with it the chance to create a type of art that is both captivating and compelling. So, what is glitch art?

Effectively, glitch art involves the creation of visually appealing pieces where the forms and traditions of art are questioned through the use of digital techniques that incorporate pixilations, interruptions and glitches.

The word glitch is believed to originate from the German language and the word glitschen which means to slip. This is what glitch art is all about because it captures that split second when a steady image slips and becomes distorted, stunning the viewer and those who see it. As a result, glitch art creates visually arresting pieces that can evoke a range of emotions and feelings.

So, glitch art is a visual style that has grown in popularity and it is characterized by digital or analogue errors that are used for aesthetic purposes. This might be intentional, known as Faking Glitch or it could be created by accident without any human intervention.

What this proves is that glitch art is created in a way that utilizes electronic technologies. These mediums are open and ready for artists to express themselves and showcase a new level of creativity. What this delivers is a controlled and refined level of imperfection that carries a new meaning while it is also a stark reminder of the technical aspect of design. The blend of textures and patterns create a feeling of imperfection while delivering a strange feeling of perfection at the same time.

So, the history of the word glitch might date back to the 1960s but Glitch art is growing increasingly popular among contemporary artists.  Glitch art showcases just how technology influences the way in which we create art but also how technology influences our lives.


  • Robert

    Thanks for the insight into your world

  • Cristy

    Love this! Thank you for sharing!

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