Tom Moody is best known today as commentator on the net art scene and a member of the animated GIF and meme sharing community on dump.fm. However, he is also an accomplished painter and a pioneer in employing consumer-quality paint software applications in a fine art context. Throughout his career, his works have provided mesmerizing DIY optical effects balanced with thoughtful considerations of the impact of technology on image production, particularly in regard to the tradition of painting. This text is an overview of some of his work.
Erik Davis, Techgnosis:
New York artist, media thinker, and knob-twiddler Moody makes my head happy.
Marc Weidenbaum, Disquiet:
Tom Moody’s 8bit MP3s (and Other Media)
The artist Tom Moody applies the same lo-fi, lo-tech tools to visuals as he does to sound, an approach generally described as “8bit.” Even when he is using acrylics instead of software like MS Paintbrush, he ports over the pared down geometries and limited color palettes of early digital media, sometimes including the pixel patterning. Much as Agnes Martin would restrict herself to rarefied grids, and Robert Ryman himself to a stark white canvas, Moody works within the confines of such time-honored devices as the animated GIF and the Korg Electribe Groovebox.
Two recent music files on his website provide a back beat to his modus operandi. “Song 8 (Blip)” sounds like a rave for pixel characters (MP3, tommoody.us) while “Reggaedrome II” employs the genre’s dubby rhythms and then layers in tentative effects; the latter, he explains in the post, were an attempt to convey “students learning to scratch” (MP3, tommoody.us). For the sake of audio-visual comparison, the image above is Moody’s digitally produced “sketch_a4 (dutch remix)” — click through to see the full-size original on his site.
Titus O'Brien, Fort Worth Star Telegram:
Twenty years [Saskia Jorda's] senior, New Yorker Tom Moody has learned to ditch the extras and simply dish up his committed explorations of the terrain between fine art, cyberspace and rapid computer obsolescence. Using software that's more than 20 years old, he creates Kandinsky-esque "paintings" that look at first like chalk pastels but are actually prints.
The drawings themselves are gorgeous, mysteriously organic, like Terry Winters on acid - then pixelated.
There are several video pieces, too. [And/Or Gallery]'s display choice, showing them on old Commodore 64 monitors and '70s-era portable TVs, is great. OptiDisc with its simple, mod animated concentric discs provides the actual result that color abstractionist Ken Noland was always after.
As modest as it is, this show will surely go down on my "best of" list for 2006. Scoring Moody for their opening show was a coup.
Raphael Rubinstein, Art in America:
The site of New York painter Tom Moody, who shares with viewers images of his own paintings, his studio process, his visual passions and assorted enthusiasms. He also devotes a lot of space to the work of other artists who share his interest in the intersection of abstraction and digital art. Mesmerizing digital animations and occasional comments, always opinionated and thoughtful, on exhibitions and art-world developments.
Marius Watz, Generator.x:
Tom Moody’s work is done with lo-tech digital tools: MS Paintbrush (the old version, mind you) and consumer printers. Quite a stretch for someone who originally started out as a painter. Moody also maintains a wonderful blog on life, digital art and everything (his art work is here). He posted yesterday about an interview with him in the magazine NY Arts. To quote him slightly out of context: “..the text is an attempt to legitimize working with the computer to my brethren in the gallery world; that quest seems totally doomed..”
The interview and Moody’s own reflections on it is worth reading for anyone who cares about overlaps between the electronic and commercial art worlds. And if you’re not, then just read his blog for the pleasure of it.
Ken Johnson, New York Times:
This two-person show is a playground for the eyes, a wry mix of optical bounce and conceptual gamesmanship. Tom Moody's large, quiltlike paper works wed illusionism and materialism. Using a rudimentary computer program (''Paintbrush''), he generates shaded spheres that he photocopies in various sizes onto sheets of colored copier paper.
He cuts these pages into geometric shapes and neatly tapes them together, producing a merger of two fields: one of balls that seem to float around in space and the other a flat, slightly puckered pattern of crystalline facets in pink, yellow, baby blue, mint green and white.
Larger or smaller balls may be concentrated toward the center, altering spatial perspective; in an all black-and-white one, evenly distributed spheres produce a mesmerizing edge-to-edge molecular hum.
These works are amusing, also, for the way they fuse high modern associations, like Cubism or Greenbergian all-overness, with kitsch associations of Op Art and cheap office technology.
Each of David Clarkson's works is a glossy, intensely colored panel on which he paints spots and to which he attaches small, glowing red light bulbs. This produces vision-boggling interactions of color and pulsating afterimages. Knowingly gimmicky, they, too, spoof the puritanical seriousness of high modern formalism.
Rob Myers' blog:
Tom Moody is a talented New-York-based visual artist with a penchant for bitmap imagery. He can draw more expressively in Microsoft Paint than I can with a box of soft pastels, and his use of this skill in such a restrictive medium to pull in fine art and low culture references is good stuff. Solving the technical problems of representing the forms that society creates is what art is about.
Tom's image work is an embodiment of the current forms and means of production of internet-based society. But, and this is crucial, it is phrased unavoidably in terms of art history and artistic production that mean it would fail as simple web illustration. It is too interesting and has too much internal complexity. It makes a context for itself. History, problem solving and interiority are anathema to the easy post-historical consumerist cool of Web 2.0.
Tom's pixels-as-symbolic-form MS Paint drawings of graffitti, or of found image elements then mixed in with art-historical precedents, present the viewer and critic with work to do both visually and conceptually. They are vivid and timely images without being tricksy or issue-illustrating. These stand-alone pieces are where I feel the best of Tom's work is. You can gain a lot of insight into contemporary culture by looking at them.
Take a look at OptiDisc and Double Double Centrifuge, two of the numerous works by Tom Moody circulated on the Web, and the function of animated GIFs in an artistic context becomes clearer. [...] The type of phenomena we usually find annoying when surfing – a permanently flickering background image, a rotating globe when a commercial firm wants to depict its global network, or body parts that grow and shrink to promote an advertising promise of two more centimetres – are presented by Tom Moody as contemplative elements and associated with the work on framing to be found in experimental film, the psychological framework of Op-Art or scientific visualisation methods – in other words, with the visual language of Modernism.
Sally McKay: "The Affect of Animated GIFs (Tom Moody, Petra Cortright, Lorna Mills)" (art&education)
Telic Arts Exchange: Interview by Sean Dockray
Rhizome.org: Interview with Tom Moody by Cory Arcangel
NY Arts: Interview by Aaron Yassin
Disquiet: "Simple Tom Moody mp3"
lalBLOG: Anigifs as Art
Paddy Johnson, Art Fag City:
Naturally, I’m thrilled that someone will have the opportunity to purchase the exchange I participated in above whereby New Media artist Tom Moody suggests his “blog” is actually a literalized performance, and locates himself inside his exhibition pedestal. I suspect however that most people bring a good deal more skepticism to the piece now on display at artMovingProjects than I have. After all, why should a blog be sold as a purchasable item when you can look at it for free in the comfort of your own home? Sure collectors now have the opportunity to purchase a more “objecty” version of the blog; a limited edition DVD which features a month’s worth of exhibition related and regular posting, or Terminal which includes a pedestal/keyboard stand and gear with a dedicated hard drive for Moody’s blogging activities during the exhibition, but still…does this not grossly over estimate the importance of a blog?
Well, yes, but Tom Moody doesn’t use a traditional blogging model, so evaluating it within the perimeters of a regular blog will inevitably lead viewers to an erroneous conclusion. To my mind BLOG needs to be exhibited because it represents a portion of one of the most important new media documents on the web today. Perhaps best described as a digital sketchbook, Moody’s site is a mix of his own work, his critical writing, and political thoughts. What’s more it attracts some of the most intelligent comment threads I’ve read on any blog.
Like most work, it’s not that there aren’t other examples of artists who take similar approaches, it’s that nobody has done it as well, or for as long as Moody. Now, evaluating what is essentially a month long performance piece three days in is a little like judging an Eyebeam reBlogger prior to their reblogging (see this post for an explanation on reblogging) , so rather than discuss a couple posts from the opening I missed, I thought I would link to three archived posts written within the last year. These posts are indicative of the kind of work you can expect to see on his blog, and part of the reason his blog is being exhibited in the first place.
-- Last year I linked to a post where Moody had distilled the sentiments expressed in Jerry Saltz’s feature on the Walid Raad show at the Kitchen in the style of a Donald Judd review. (Update: To be clear, Moody doesn’t change Saltz’s words, he just condenses/crops his thoughts.) I liked the gesture, not only because it showed the strength of art writing that occurred in the 1960’s but because it drew a connection between the directness of his own writing and that of another artist. I like to think that directness is a result of the critical oneupsmanship that permeates artist culture, (there can be no better sign of a good artist than a highly discerning eye,) though there are so few who do it well, that the theory would be next to impossible to prove.
[Tom Moody, Pulse Pool] [Tom Moody, Pulse Pool]
[Tom Moody, Pulse Pool] [Tom Moody, Pulse Pool]
-- I’ve included the above pool gif as a recent example of Moody’s art, because I think the piece deserves attention and underscores the importance of his blog as a means of showcasing his work. I suppose an obvious parallel to this work are David Hockney pools, though I tend to feel the similarities are limited to palette and subject matter as opposed to approach. Unlike Hockney’s works which are typically frozen and even lonely in their sparseness, this work breaths as though alive, and suggests the presence of many both in its movement and construction (the piece is a collage of many pool images found on the web.) I should note before moving on, that one aspect of Moody’s blog that I actually enjoy is the fact that I don’t like all the art he posts. To understand an artists process you really have to be able to view a full lineage of work, because from this a viewer can see what is accepted and reused in later works, and what isn’t. This kind of information really enriches the viewing experience.
[Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
-- Tom Moody ran the above image with the very appropriate headline "Most meaningless use of a religious icon reference in a press photo." The artist’s political posts typically have little to do with Moody’s art or criticism, but for the fact that Moody clearly believes it important for an artist to be at least somewhat politically engaged, but I have highlighted this piece because I think the title alone represents an excellent merging of political and aesthetic criticism. The article this particular photograph ran with in the New York Times detailed congress’s current session which concluded without having done much of anything. Moody makes fun of the photographer, and adds an anecdote from Jim Jarmusch’s film Dead Man.
It occurs to me after having written this post, that I would love to see artMovingProjects and Tom Moody invite a blog curator to put together a greatest hits DVD as another incarnation of this show. The artist has archives listing back to 2001, so a curated version of his blog would without a doubt be something I’d pay to own.
Palo Fabus, Furtherfield:
When it comes to questions concerning art and blogs, one has to resolve the distinction between blogs dealing with art and blogs being the art. When the editors of Artkrush #57 listed Tom Moody's personal weblog in their art blogs selection, it was included in the former category. But is the latter forbidden for a blog like Moody's, which, besides containing political thoughts and remarks of other artist's work, contains entries of the author's own work?
Tom Moody is an American artist who started as a painter and later adopted lo-fi techniques of computer aesthetics that deal with ubiquitous commercialism of Internet and ever present kitsch of web culture. A focal point of his work is painting molecules. [...] The[ir] recurrence yields "as a matter of essence and an essence of matter" a crossing point of latent inner structures and omnipresent superficiality.
In his recent work called BLOG, Moody puts his own web blog in a white box gallery space. Viewers could approach a simple installation of a computer monitor, keyboard and mouse to browse an artist's blog in artMovingProjects Gallery in New York. The month-long exhibition, from May 19 to June 24, 2007, didn't change Moody's blogging routine, though perhaps besides having an awareness of the gallery audience. He considers this the second generation of "net art."
"I'm going to be performing with changing content, graphics, etc. Not really any different from what I normally do but with an awareness of a specific, meat space audience, what will work on the gallery's screen, how to explain to a reader not physically in the gallery what I'm doing and why," writes Moody on his blog. He reflects on the exhibition from time to time, but most of the entries are written in a standard manner, following the purpose and tone of Moody's writing before the exhibition. "The weblog is a combination of things: it's a studio diary; it's an ongoing documentation of past work; and it's a place for work-in-process, as well as collaborations, original pieces made for the web, and mini-curated exhibitions of things I like (of both an art and a web-oddity nature)," Moody explained in an interview for NY Arts.
What is most interesting about BLOG is Moody's reflection of the performance, as in what escalates the recursive nature of concept additionally illustrated by the author himself: it is "BLOG on BLOG during BLOG."
An artist's ego has always played an important role in the art world, but within the culture of social media, one doesn't have clarity of an artist's front stage and back stage. It is supposed to be considered art if it is put it in an art context, like a gallery, but does that mean that everything else isn't art? Weblogs, and the web in general, have proved to be successful outlets for art. The gallery context is no longer the only legitimate venue for presenting art, adding another dimension to Marcel Broodthaers' notion of an "artist being an author of definition since Duchamp's era."
Truly, the tongue-in-cheek situation stems here from Moody's decision to make public something that is already public in a full-fledged way. And more, both in the curatorial text and through Moody's blog entries, visitors are invited to interact through commentary on the web page. Duality of perception brings about a duality of audience. Blog art can easily blur the line between artistic content and curatorial mission. However, Tom Moody isn't concerned with curating immateriality. It is truly this plain overlap of understanding art as the actual and virtual, institutional and lively, which makes his performance an important gesture.
Gene McHugh, Post Internet [PDF, p. 260]:
The meeting of painting and the computer is not new. MS Paint, for example, has long been mined for painting effects. In the context of the Internet, the artist Tom Moody (a former “actual” painter) has built an important practice at the interface of painting and the computer screen which has evolved into making animated gifs and placing them on his own blog and sites like dump.fm.