By Ryan MacGibbon
A juice carton rests next to his left hand. Its four edges rise from the table and fold into a pint-sized peaked top. A straw juts out of the punched out hole in the waxed cardboard container. The thirsting mouth of Professor Bertram Katz reaches for it and draws juice.
Katz now roaming the studio, his students are painting. “Where is my juice?” he questions, sarcastically accusatory. He moves about in a white lab coat stained with colorful paint. “Did you take it?” he asks trivially, knowing that some step of his movement misplaced it.
He searches with a head of short, wavy-white hair and a strong face with a rounded nose. “Here it is,” he says with a bit of glee. He lifts the carton by its edges and pulls on the straw.
Katz is a teaching artist. He tells his students that all of existence is involved in form. Including juice, everything is a combination of matter and action. He recognizes perspective as the agent between the two, the force maintaining their interaction. For him, to understand perspective is a means to understand the continual happenings of the world, a means of “being aware of the various transitions.” And art is seeped in perspective.
Katz’s most influential years of study were at Hunter College with the abstract expressionist, Robert Motherwell. With the completion of his studies, he left the states and created artwork in Europe. He returned to teach studio art at Ohio State. He’s been a teacher since, currently, a professor of studio art at New York University, and an artist always. He sees himself as a “picture-maker.”
It was Motherwell who got him to consider what a picture really is. Part of the Dada movement of the early 20th century, Motherwell rejected the traditions of art to work irrationally and ecstatically to free the imagination. His paintings rejected the logic of capitalist society that seemed to lead to world war. He purposed his creation to realize a new value system, one that questioned and contradicted standards. Katz incorporated this freedom into his own point of view, realizing that “You don’t need to adhere to the academic traditions of art.”
No longer directed by traditions, the creation of a picture became an exercise in perspective for him. Art became a means to realizing an individual’s relationship to life’s elements of form. He believes, “the most interesting art is created in the subconscious.” What’s “interesting” is the fresh point of view that is shared through unrestrained creation. For him, an irrationally created picture communicates a person’s individual interaction with the world.
“I am particularly interested in people who are part of a creative act,” Katz comments. Realizing individual perspectives through artistic creation, one can begin to understand the workings of history. “I’m seduced by history. It means a lot,” Katz asserts. He tries to, “understand how a point of view is acted out, how people react to their situations.” He sees historical events as the culmination of varying perspectives interacting. To him, a person’s perspective reacts to its surroundings, initiating action that then creates new matter (form) for further reaction. Another viewpoint then responds to that matter, again creating a new form. In this way, form is continually propagated, affirming its universality.
Katz elaborates, “Art is just a replication of that process, recognizing the particular events of form that are peculiar.” To practice art is to improve one’s ability to understand how an event occurs. He believes when an artist makes a picture, he or she converts the elements of form of the world before him or her into a new from through a personal point of view. By realizing the mechanics of perspective through art, he came to understand how general perspective interacts to form an event.
For Katz, when life is seen from as many angles as possible, it “is much more fascinating than otherwise.” “As an artist,” he believes, “one challenges the traditional state of mind.” This sentiment has driven him to be a teacher—he gets to challenge his students understanding of perspective while also learning fresh points of view. He explains, “What interests me in teaching is being a facilitator in the creative mode. The students I come in contact with become creative people. It’s extremely gratifying. Their work blossoms. That’s what I look forward to.”
He teaches picture-making. To him, a work is successful if it causes people to intensely react. Disgust is nearly as good of a reaction as awe. He sees picture-making as working on the level of perspective, not concept. Katz elaborates, “Real invention comes from the subconscious. It’s unadulterated.” In this sense, an adverse reaction corresponds to a shock of perception—both awe and revulsion mark a realization of a new view of the world. The viewer has perceived a certain element of existence’s universal form from a new angle. Without concept, the picture works on its own to change perception. He believes the value of the art is therefore in itself. This is why Katz creatively equivocates his title as an artist to “picture-maker.”
Katz has a drive to challenge perception and is intuitively a teacher. The picture-maker is naturally a teaching artist. “It’s not a passive life. It’s engaging,” he assures. When he asks, “Where is my juice?” he alerts all the eyes into the room to the peculiar form of missing juice. He challenges their perspectives to find the container, encouraging creation of its new form in discovery, thus enabling him to take another fascinating sip.
By Ryan MacGibbon
Ears all plugged with earbuds—wires string out of the line of heads and dangle down to a smartphone. The train car is nearly silent, yet each person experiences an individual landscape of sound. In this interval of transportation, you are left to your choice of entertainment, the offerings nearly as broad as at home.
Work is portable as well—tapping a button, you get a start on checking your e-mail. One message links you to breaking news, the web page loading as you read and scroll. With two stops to go before heading underground, you send a message to some friends about a gallery opening and download the latest episode of The Office.
The train rolling down into the darkness, you pause your music and stretch your legs into the aisle to watch some television. This is the smartphone morning commute, connecting you to the world, pocket-sized.
Smartphones and other handheld computerized devices are becoming the one-in-all gadget for work tools and entertainment. As more people begin to move about their days with mini-computers, social connectivity will increase. Allowed this vast communication ability, you will need to assert yourself to others with increasing frequency. Simultaneously, you will be able to spend more time wherever you please. As so, people will become more individuated, distinct ones in a world of constant interconnectivity.
Human beings are in need of increased interaction as, “more people are realizing how alone we are,” says student Seanna Sharpe. “People are running around doing their own thing, but also trying to find out what other people are doing.” As technology opens our awareness of reality, confirming our isolation in outer space, individual bewilderment and curiosity grows. Backed with the vast information and communication resource of the smartphone, people are empowered to explore their own interests, assured their explorations won’t isolate them from work and friends.
An AT&T associate, Pedro Lopez, describes a basic scenario. You want to take a love interest out on a date, but have work and plans with other friends filling out your week. Exchanging messages and media over smartphones, you can get to know this person without cutting into your set schedule. By the time you’re both available, you’ll have a better idea of who the other person is and whether or not you really want to take him or her out.
Lopez explains, “Time and technology run together.” With the increased convenience of smartphones, people will more often spend their time as they please. In the case of the date, once two people decide to devote time to one another, they’ll already be certain of a potential connection. With the improvement of messaging on smartphones, “People will feel more confident because people are better writers than speakers.”
In-Stat, a market and technology research company, reports an increasing trend in wireless high-speed internet subscriptions. The popularity of smartphones is mounting, forming a wider and more intimate interconnectivity between the human race. In-Stat finds, “At the end of 2008, only 11% of worldwide wireless subscriptions were 3G. By the end of 2013, the percentage of 3G and 4G subscriptions will reach 30%.”
The rise of portable, high-speed internet with full page display will allow us access to information and entertainment in nearly any situation. John C. Abell, the New York City Bureau Chief for wired.com, explains how this will affect owners of smartphones. “They are empowering, like a gun is. My guess is improved confidence and less fear of the unknown, because less is unknowable. The ability to get info and make decisions anywhere and anytime is very liberating because it doesn’t bind you to a location — just like mobile phones made it possible to go out and have fun and still get called about a party later on. If you don’t have to baby-sit an information device you never have to stop doing.”
As smartphones unbind people from location, humans will be more interconnected, continually evaluating and relating to information and people. In nearly constant reflection, one will become more individuated and self-assured, with more personal interests.
“You can’t not have one of these gadgets. It’s like letting someone have a superior power over you,” says Serg Brushtein, a New York University student. He suggests the smartphone as the stirrings of next stage of human development. These devices allow portable access to the largest database of human information as well as, “expanding your social network horizontally.” With the advent of the mass use of smartphones, humans will advance as a species by continually relaying personal discoveries (spurred by technology) to others through that same technology. Work and entertainment will no longer bind people to a specific location. Through increased interconnectivity, we will continue to release each other from spatial constraints.
By Ryan MacGibbon
The floorboards look like overalls with patchwork. The wood grain is gnarled, remedied but overdosed with layers of paint. A large print propped against the wall behind the reception desk reads, “honeymag.com.” A breeze carries the bustle of SoHo through wide white arched windows. I lounge and wait for Amy Rollo.
Gorgeous, dark skinned, long-legged women roam productively through the office. Fair skinned, pint-sized Amy greets me as she exits the conference room. We settle down at her desk and she gives me a tour of honeymag.com. Honeymag is a hip, urban fashion/gossip online magazine. She’s the art director. I’m out of my element, but I’m here for the graphic design.
She needs to make a button to link readers to their twitter page. Flying through folders with a wireless Mac mouse, she opens Photoshop and pulls up a template. She shades the bottom with a saturated light blue. Bright white fades down from the top edge. Her summer intern arrives, suspending the work.
She looks like she already works here—long legged, dark skinned. Her art is also well aligned. She passes around a clean looking media package. A large-legged woman, stopping on her way out, recommends brightening the layout with more color and swapping the photographs for seductive and smiling expressions, swift advice and then her departure. The intern leaves soon after.
Amy returns to the button creation. She adds a “twitter-bird” to the extended rectangular template. It gestures with its wing at text reading, “are we twitter bff’s? follow me.” With a few more rapid fire movements through cyberspace, the button is sent off to be laid into the website.
She begins to take me through the new layout. My mind wonders and wanders. This would be a scene to paint. What fine figures. They deserve the color rich medium. Amy starts to put together her visual bio of favorite things. Will we now always be digital or will the future of graphic design find paint?