‘The Treachery of Image Compression’
This piece is the first in the ‘Retrofit Sub-Context’ series (see below for the Artist Statement on the series and this piece).
-Original Oil on Thrift Art by Dave Pollot
-Background is a Framed Oil Painting
-Includes Signed Certificate of Authenticity and is Signed by Artist
-Measures 29 x 41″ including frame
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In 1929, Rene Magritte finished a painting he called, “The Treachery of Images”. This painting shows a pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) painted below it. I would never be so bold as to say with absolute certainty that I knew the intention that motivated this painting, however it does seem somewhat self-evident that he was paying homage to the power of images. Without the context of these famous words [This is not a pipe], one might look at his painting and proclaim with confidence, “It is a pipe!”. To which, Magritte would point out that it is not a pipe, but a painting of a pipe. “Could you stuff it with tobacco?”, he might add with a mischievous grin.
88 years later (Doc Brown could see no coincidence), I began thinking a lot about context. Missing context seems to me perhaps one of the most dangerous things we face in a world where information is so easily and instantly disseminated to a global community so hungry for, yet so easily enraged or elated by it. Individuals wrapped in virtual anonymity and armed with keyboards weaponize missing context – it has become the ammunition of the immobile.
A year later, I decided to pay homage to Magritte while exploring this idea a bit further and finished the first in a series of paintings I’m calling “Retrofit Sub-Context”. “The Treachery of Image Compression” is the title of the first in this series. For this piece, I’ve altered a rescued thrift store landscape by painting a large pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas une peinture altérée” (This is not an altered painting) below it.
So, are the words you’re seeing truth, or are they a lie? Well, it depends upon the context. If you’re seeing this painting in person, the painted words are, in fact, a lie. If, however, you’re seeing a digital representation of this painting (perhaps you’re viewing it on Instagram, or Reddit, or Facebook) then these words are truth.
Context is often the difference between truth and lies. Let’s take an extreme example. One of the most famous images in contemporary American journalism was taken by Eddie Addams in 1968 and captures the execution of a handcuffed member of the Viet Cong. When I first saw this image as a young man, I was filled with empathy for the prisoner and outraged by the fact that someone could photograph his execution. Later, I learned that the man being executed had killed the wife and six children of a South Vietnamese officer. I tried to imagine what that must have been like for the man whose family would be avenged, and the realization that this would not bring any long term solace. And then I thought about the man who carried out the execution and what that must have been like for him. There lies not one, but many, stories buried deep within the history of this image – many points of view, each with its own context.
“Retrofit Sub-Context” will explore these ideas further while paying tribute to some of my favorite artists through reclaimed and altered thrift art. Each will add a modern context to the style, idea, or particular painting (still relevant today) of an artist who was working within their own perspective, and surfaced through a piece of forgotten art which will find new relevance in the process.