Letter to Chuck Close from the digital artist whom he threatened with a lawsuit

Discuss

105 Responses to “Letter to Chuck Close from the digital artist whom he threatened with a lawsuit”

  1. Ethan says:

    It seems as if Blake never tried to clarify with Close whether it was artistic appropriation or the name appropriation that he was objecting to. It’s certainly possible that it is both–but I do wonder if Blake had offered to simply take Close’s name off the project, whether that would had resolved the issue. As Blake mentions, it is not unusual for contemporary artists to reference others’ works–it is a well-trodden path. However, I do have some sympathy for Close not wanting Blake’s work presented as “FreeChuckCloseArt.com.”  Because as Blake points out, it isn’t Close’s art–it’s Blake’s.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if Close is willing to object to anything and everything that might provide legal leverage.

      I can imagine that some people Just Wouldn’t Take It Well upon learning that their ‘art’ can, in fact, be produced with fair accuracy by a relatively modest algorithm. Unless you own a ‘celebratory transhumanist’ hat and wish to put it on, that probably stings a bit.

      I would, personally, be sympathetic to a pure trademark claim(ie. get my name off your project and refer to it as ‘photo mosaic’); but going any further than that seems like bitterness(however genuine and painful) over the fact that, unfortunately for you, your chosen art happens to be (comparatively) easy to replicate algorithmically. 

      However much I might sympathize with personally, as one of the unlucky people whose creative and/or vocational preference happens to be easy to automate; I find my sympathy for any legal remedies drying up very quickly indeed after a possible trademark claim.

      • chaopoiesis says:

        It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if Close is willing to object to anything and everything that might provide legal leverage.

        I can imagine that some people Just Wouldn’t Take It Well upon learning that their ‘art’ can, in fact, be produced with fair accuracy by a relatively modest algorithm. Unless you own a ‘celebratory transhumanist’ hat and wish to put it on, that probably stings a bit.

        I would, personally, be sympathetic to a pure trademark claim(ie. get my name off your project and refer to it as ‘photo mosaic’); but going any further than that seems like bitterness(however genuine and painful) over the fact that, unfortunately for you, your chosen art happens to be (comparatively) easy to replicate algorithmically.

        However much I might sympathize with personally, as one of the unlucky people whose creative and/or vocational preference happens to be easy to automate; I find my sympathy for any legal remedies drying up very quickly indeed after a possible trademark claim.

        • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

          I think that I grasp your intended point; but you really need to be emulating my writing style, rather than copy-pasting, for full effect(not that I’d recommend emulating my writing style for other purposes, mind you, that’s only hurting yourself…)

          Full credit and a circlet of the internets +2, of course, would be awarded for constructing a Markov process that digests samples of my text and spits out stylistically plausible filler text.

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    • avraamov says:

      Exactly. ‘freechuckcloseart.com’ isn’t just a domain name, it’s a rhetorical gesture which belittles Close’s work, or at least will be perceived as doing so. ‘It’s so easy and process based, you can just shoop it’
      On a broader art-historical point, Close’s work seems to me to be about machine vision/representation and perception (his own) in any case. It’s well documented that he suffers from ‘face blindness’, and he began engaging with that in his early works with a hyper-real airbrushed approach. Over the years his work has become more and more quantised or pixellated and evolved into what it is. I think seen in that context, Blake’s piece is tautologous at best.

      • wibbled_pig says:

         His art is more pixelated because he had a stroke ( I think) and lost fine motor control of his hands, He just can’t work at the fine detail level anymore.

  2. Xof says:

    Next up, an artist claiming a copyright on sepia-tone or bokeh.

  3. Sagodjur says:

    I don’t see how Close could keep a straight face while claiming to “own” anything about his method or style. Does he have a patent on photo mosaics or something? I’d bet he feels threatened that someone is able to replicate his technique with much less effort than he puts into creating his art.

    • RaidenDaigo says:

      Part of the problem is that as the article in Salon states Blake admits to scanning in Close’s work from books to be processed by the filter, the filter doesn’t generate the tiles it uses Close’s own work to derive images that are in the style of Close.

    • cleek says:

      Does he have a patent on photo mosaics or something?

      i hope not, or Robert Silvers, who does have such a patent, will be vewy vewy angry.

    • Ahkenhaton says:

      You’re confusing technique with talent. I don’t want to get into a tedious argument with a geek, but Blake’s Photoshop filter does no more than mindlessly apply an approximation of the look of Close’s painting style to a photograph. If it’s a dull photograph to begin with, it’s even duller after being ‘Blaked’. Your line about ‘replicating his technique’ is Philistine nonsense.

      • Sagodjur says:

        That’s entirely subjective. You could just be interpreting Close’s technique as talent. Did Close actually do anything revolutionary that signifies “talent?” That’s for critics to decide.

  4. Boundegar says:

    Close didn’t object to a work of art, he objected to a plug-in for Photoshop.  And if he had not objected, it’s likely that plug-in would have been sold for profit with his name still attached.  I know we’re supposed to feel for the poor oppressed little guy, but I think Close has a valid case.  Pity they couldn’t reach a friendly settlement.

    • waksawak says:

      They did reach a friendly settlement.  He took the site down.  In the exchanges Close comes off as reasonable.  The author and artist of this piece does not.  Writing an article two years after the fact is meant to embarrass not enlighten.

      • foobar says:

        He took the site down because he couldn’t afford to defend himself when challenged to Trial by Wealth.

        Close comes off as a bully, and he deserves to have a bigger one come to a “friendly settlement” with him.

        • waksawak says:

          He says that two years after the fact.  In their actual exchanges, assuming they are verbatim, he states he respects the decision that Close has made regarding possible litigation.  Two years after the fact he acts aggrieved.  Close then seems impressed that he sees things from Close’s viewpoint.  No denial is given at the time. Blake only changes his tactics after the fact. He is allowed to do that, but based on the communications provided at the time, they were on amicable terms.  This whole article seems to be written out of spite versus and compared to the one-on-one exchanges, chickenshit.  If he believed in his point of view and had a communication line available to him to Chuck Close then why air a one sided exchange on Salon?  Copyright is about individual right’s to the work they create. Chuck Close is within his right to protect his work just as Scott Blake is within his right to protect his work.  Close is exercising his right.  Lumping all artistic expression into one general consensus of thinking of how an artist should be allowed to express themselves seems antithetical to the idea itself. His point seems to be everyone should think about  art like I think about art. Part of copyright is protecting it.    That is part of the choice we have legally given the artist to use.  Not protecting it is just another right you have.  You do not however get to decided when and where you protect it.  Close is right, his choice to protect his copyright is the only way to validate it.  If he has made the decision to protect and commercialize his work then he is within his legal obligation to prevent it from being appropriated.

  5. teapot says:

    Solution: put your plugin in a torrent file & upload to file lockers and let the internet take care of it for you.

    Destroy these litigious assholes by uploading your creation to places where the distribution is out of your control…but yeah, change the name first for plausible deniability.

  6. moailio says:

    Blake is obviously talented, but creating  a digital shortcut that simulates an acclaimed painter’s signature style does not make him an artist, just a high-tech plagiarist.  He sounds like an arrogant twit.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      Whether or not he is an arrogant twit, the assertion ‘creating a digital shortcut that simulates an acclaimed painter’s signature style does not make him an artist’ seems controversial at best and absurdly false at worst.

      Artists and Aestheticians and Critical types have been nattering on for something between decades and millenia(depending on exactly how tightly you want to draw the boundaries) about issues of ‘creativity’, ‘inspiration’ art vs. craft, what constitutes ‘art’ or ‘good art’, division of art by genre, and similar matters.

      Creating a sort of meta-simulacrum, a written work of executable code that serves as a critical analysis of another artist sufficiently complete that it can extend his style to works that the artist never actually created, seems wholly in line with certain strains of either art or art criticism(if you wish to follow the ‘arrogant twit’ theory, it would be only fair to note that Team Postmodern would be all over work like this…)

      As I’ve noted, I suspect that Close has a strong trademark case for banhammering the use of his name in association with the project; but I suspect that his real animus is going after a critic who has analysed him so well as to be able to programmatically simulate him. I appreciate that that has to hurt; but that doesn’t make it legally tortious.

      • Thank you so much for your comment.

      • chaopoiesis says:

        Whether or not he is an arrogant twit, the assertion ‘creating a digital shortcut that simulates an acclaimed painter’s signature style does not make him an artist’ seems controversial at best and absurdly false at worst.

        Artists and Aestheticians and Critical types have been nattering on for something between decades and millenia(depending on exactly how tightly you want to draw the boundaries) about issues of ‘creativity’, ‘inspiration’ art vs. craft, what constitutes ‘art’ or ‘good art’, division of art by genre, and similar matters.

        Creating a sort of meta-simulacrum, a written work of executable code that serves as a critical analysis of another artist sufficiently complete that it can extend his style to works that the artist never actually created, seems wholly in line with certain strains of either art or art criticism(if you wish to follow the ‘arrogant twit’ theory, it would be only fair to note that Team Postmodern would be all over work like this…)

        As I’ve noted, I suspect that Close has a strong trademark case for banhammering the use of his name in association with the project; but I suspect that his real animus is going after a critic who has analysed him so well as to be able to programmatically simulate him. I appreciate that that has to hurt; but that doesn’t make it legally tortious.

        • chaopoiesis says:

          It’s up to y’all to keep the Like counts in synch.

        • bcallero says:

          In his article, Blake states that he is appropraiting in the manner of that Levine, Lichtenstein and even Fairey (who has his own issues) did. His comparisons and the logic behind them tells me he has a fundamental misunderstanding of what those artists were doing and the concept of appropriation in general.  It’s too bad that he just doesn’t get it. Blake thinks he is a victim, which is quite pathetic.
          Also, bringing up Close’s fame and wealth is beside the point. Especially if he is a fan of Chuck Close’s work as he claims.

          • moxie64 says:

             It’s interesting that Blake would use Levine as an example, since the estate of Walker Evans took possession of her “After Walker Evans” series in settlement of their copyright infringement dispute w/ Levine.

          • princeminski says:

            Chuck’s lucky this guy “likes” him.

  7. kullervo says:

    Chuck Close’s style is so unique and distinctive, and pictures in this style so completely shout his name, I can’t see how Blake’s claims can possibly stand. If not copyright, Close should be able to claim the style under trademark. Any plug-in using this style should not only bear Close’s name, the money should flow to him.

    • wysinwyg says:

      Any plug-in using this style should not only bear Close’s name, the money should flow to him.

      How about the estate of Salvador Dali instead since he was doing painted pixel art years before Close?

      Or how about Monet?  If I had to pick an artist who made the biggest contribution to pixel-based art it would probably be Monet.

      Are you starting to see the trouble with “copyright” and “trademark” when it comes to style?

  8. A number of tactical mistakes made by a student who obviously isn’t very conversant about how the “BiG” art world works. When you have to resort to referring to established artists as ‘wealthy bullies’ your emotional maturity is definitely in question. Yes…. Everything IS a remix. But if you’re smart you’ll pass on attracting attention to your re-mix by appropriating the name of another artist when referring to your creation. Can’t believe this person thought nobody would notice. It’s the era of ‘the net’…. all is visible, nothing is hidden once it’s digital.

    • Genre Slur says:

       It should be noted that, given the number of wealthy bullies posing as human, claiming you’ve spotted one doesn’t reasonably bring into immediate question your ‘emotional maturity’. Nice attempt to present a straw man so you can fix it ad hominem, lol!

  9. Bashtarle says:

    …… Or you could always just not use his name and select a different tile set, problem solved!

    The problem from my perspective isn’t that the filter took an image and tried to recreate it as best it could within a defined space with a limited tile set. It is primarily that it used the artists name, followed secondly by the fact the tile set had from the sounds of it been lifted from images of the aforementioned artists works. Where the actual filter itself is really a non issue.

  10. Gunn says:

    Sounds to me as though Chuck Close was actually very gracious to this kid, inviting him to stop by his studio, etc.  One of those good deeds that do not go unpunished.

    • Ethan says:

      I was struck by that as well… 

    • alexb says:

      Yeah. how cool would that have been. You idolize someone, get in a spat with him. Back down, but then he invites you to stop by and see him.
      It’s an incredible offer from someone who must seriously have other things to do. The article doesn’t say if he went. If he didn’t, then what a wasted opportunity that was.

  11. He was one of the people who inspired my work in that area, and I went through my own (procedurally generated) ‘abstract tile phase’ back in the early 90s before going on to more photographic tiles.
    http://www.digitalartform.com/archives/2004/12/history_of_phot.html

  12. BookGuy says:

    I tend to be pretty conservative on fair use issues (I deal with it at work all the time and am risk-avoidant about it), but this doesn’t seem like a fair use issue at all.  After all, Blake didn’t try to make money off of a plug-in that Close wrote.  Like some other commenters, it sounds to me like the real problem is that he’s attaching Close’s name to it.  I’d expect the same problem if I tried to market a cola-flavored powdered drink mix called “Make Your Own Pepsi.”

    • RaidenDaigo says:

      … and using Close’s images. So in your example it would be more like dehydrating pepsi and selling it as “make your own Pepsi” just add watter.

  13. joesplanet says:

    from Scott Blake’s website: “I created a free online filter that built digital mosaics out of dissected Chuck Close images, but Chuck Close asked me to shut it down and I agreed.”

    Making a filter that generates Chuck Close-style mosaics is one thing, making a filter that creates a mosaic-ified image using scans of Chuck Close’s work is a different deal. Stand in a room of 6-ft-tall Chuck Close paintings and you’ll see why he uses the word “trivialize”

  14. Pope Ratzo says:

    As much as I am in favor of fair use, and opposed to abusive copyright, I don’t like the idea of using another artists name to describe your own work.  I’m sorry, but artists don’t really get a lot for what they give us, and taking their name is pretty low. 

    If this guy who made the filter called it “the iPhone filter” or “the Adobe filter” everyone here would know immediately that it was wrong.  An artist’s name is his trademark and more.  It’s too important to the artist to be used in this way.  If someone made a movie and called it “The Star Wars Movie” because he believed it was “like Star Wars” nobody would question the outrage.  Calling a photographic filter the “Chuck Close filter” because it makes a photo look like Chuck Close’s work is no different.  The guy could have called it “The Ultra-realist Filter” and nobody would mind.  Chuck Close got successful and relatively wealthy (though not Mitt Romney wealthy) after decades and decades of hard work and establishing an idiosyncratic style.  That does not make him a “wealthy bully” because he tries to keep other people from using his name.

    I’m opposed to copyright, but right is right.  This is wrong.  We’re not talking about some faceless corporation making money off the work of an artist by abusing fans who want to share that artist’s work or rip a CD to listen on their iPod, we’re talking about somebody who’s trying to make a buck off an artist’s name.

    I don’t even remember the name of the guy who made this filter, but he’s being an even bigger dick by trying to get publicity by putting the letter from Chuck Close in blogs, thinking everyone’s automatically going to be sympathetic and he’ll …profit!!

    I think Cory’s being used on this one.  Everybody saw how The Oatmeal artist collected a couple hundred grand for charity by publicizing the behavior of a real bully and this…Scott Blake guy is hoping he can get in on the action.  Something tells me, judging by his tone, that in this case, the charity is him.

    • Tim Drage says:

       ” If someone made a movie and called it “The Star Wars Movie” – amazing idea

    • wysinwyg says:

      I think Cory’s being used on this one.

      What an obnoxious and condescending attitude. When someone you think is cool has an opinion you disagree with that person is “being used.” It can’t possibly be a legitimate difference of opinion, because if that were the case you wouldn’t feel justified in being so self-righteous about it.

  15. Tim H says:

    My big question about this is why Chuck Close is personally writing take down notices to internet people.  He has better things to be doing with his time, and hordes of assistants to do things like this for him. 

    I honestly wonder if someone wrote that as a joke, signing the Chuck Close name to it. 

  16. Instead of using psuedo Tapa cloth designs to model luminosity as I did here
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZdGaeqNz8g [nsfw]
    …you could probably use irregular splotches, further irregularize them with a touch of digital ripple glass, and sum the results of three independent passes at the image, one for red, one for green, and one for blue, and get pretty close to the effect.

    Associate luminosity with the correct tile using a variation of this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oc_20NNolc

    Maybe I’ll give it a try and make an Instructable if it pans out.

  17. Mister44 says:

    What does it say about your art if it can be reduced to a photoshop filter?

    FWIW -  I do like Chuck Close’s work.

    • Bender says:

      In reality, it can’t be reduced to a photoshop filter, but on a computer monitor people can be fooled to think so, and therefore the work can be trivialized. To see a Close painting in reality is really something special. 

  18. teapot says:

    I don’t really understand why people are angry at Scott Blake. The guy wrote software that  simulates the work of Chuck Close. He did not create something that competes with or devalues the original because he is not providing art, he is providing experimental software. If you know anything about photoshop, you’d know that to perfectly recreate most works of fine art in Photoshop is a task next to impossible. There is no way his software created works that could be confused with Close’s work.. Would anyone actually think these works inspired by Warhol were actually by Warhol?

    Should Alien Skin be getting sued for selling a plugin that allows simulation of MANY signature techniques of greats of the art world? http://www.alienskin.com/snapart/snapart-examples.aspx

    I agree he probably shouldn’t name it after the artist, but then Close was the inspiration behind making this so isn’t it better to give credit to him instead of naming it “Trippy art photo manipulator” or something equally as generic?

    • RaidenDaigo says:

      One of the other issues besides the name usage is the fact that Blake admits to scanning in Close’s work and dissecting it to produce images using the filter, blake is not using Close-like mosaic tiles but scanned images from published books and producing the images with those images.

    • bcallero says:

      If you feel that unpaid credit is appropriate.

      • teapot says:

        To be honest I think Close’s art already looks like something awful that was spat out of a computer… my point is that it’s better to give credit instead of pretending there’s no connection.

  19. exile says:

    As one of the Salon respondents wrote:

    susan sunflower
    Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 06:09 PM BST
    I think at this point Scott Blake may be considered a Chuck Close stalker — less to do with “art” than ego … creepy.

    •  I think he’s probably better known for his bar code art, which is unrelated to Close. He sent me some back in 2006.
      http://www.digitalartform.com/archives/2006/01/bar_code_art_by.html
      I quite liked it.

      • wysinwyg says:

        Oh, wait, you mean the world doesn’t necessarily reshape itself to conform to our prejudices?  That someone we disagree with might actually be a creative and moral person with values just slightly different than our own?

        Naah, I think I prefer the world where anyone I disagree with on IP matters is a smelly, ugly, immoral thief.  If I acknowledged the humanity of people with whom I disagree then I’d probably have to reconsider my own views, moderate them — perhaps even have to admit that I had been wrong or *gasp* apologize to someone whose opinion I had dismissed simply because it disagreed with mine.

        Thinking about moral issues instead of leaping to snap judgments, cooperating and compromising with folks whose values differ from mine…that sounds like an awful lot of hard work.  It’s way easier just to call people “cheats” or “thieves” or “monsters” when they disagree with me on moral issues.

  20. zwagbog says:

    Doesn’t matter if what Blake does is Art or not and doesn’t matter if it is or not a big contribution. In my opinion he doesn’t make art and he isn’t adding any special contribution to Art.

    The point here is, why is Close so afraid of Blake? Why should he in his position as “inventor of the technique and with this already solid reputation? It seems all a big nonsense to me. Imagine if now I would copy the style of some work by Damien Hirst. Maybe it could be very similar to his style, but I would still be me and he would still be him (the big one in the art market). It doesn’t matter who does. It matters who “invented”, or in better words, who was the first to show it.
    More: neither one or the other, Blake or Close, are creative. The first one limited himself to emulate someone’s style, while the other seems to be a narrow minded and technophobic man limited in his own “creativity”, his little world. And that’s actually what an artist that calls himself  “artist” should never be – narrow minded and limited.
    Every work is derivative. There’s one path already build behind each technique.

  21. Daemonworks says:

    Close doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on regarding either the filter itself or works produced using it. There’s no law anywhere that prohibits using a radically different means to arrive at a vaguely similar result. 
    Beyond the radically different legal budgets, the only problems Black had was in using Close’s name and assuming that Close wouldn’t act like a jerk.

    • billstewart says:

      By putting it out with Close’s name on it like that, Blake was acting like a jerk.  At least putting it out as FakeChuckCloseFilter would have been better.   And it’s too bad, because he did some interestingly obsessive deconstruction of Close’s work, and could have probably put it out in a way that wouldn’t have been a problem.   There’s a point at which you have to decide that your art has escaped out into the wild and if somebody imitates it, then oh, well, that’s art – and if that happens maybe you’re a jerk for complaining, even if they’ve done a shoddy job at it.  (And some of Blake’s other work is definitely not shoddy – but he should have titled it more appropriately.)

    • RaidenDaigo says:

      It is not radically different if he is also using Close’s mosaic images as well.

  22. Stephan says:

    Use someone elses name to sell a product. Then complain that someone else objects and go into a rant about ‘unwillingness to pass the torch to the next generation’ —> makes perfect sense.

  23. technique vs. art – if you have no “je ne sais quoi”, anything that can imitates your technique will be threatening.

    On the other hand the using of Chuck Close name on a product without permission is as offensive as tabloid use of celebrity picture, without the permission of said celebrity.

  24. RaidenDaigo says:

    Read the Salon article and I wanted to sympathize with Blake but an underlining arrogance and self-importance made that impossible. Blake’s reasoning does trivialize Close’s work and artistic viewpoint. Blake makes the bootleggers arguement but instead of being smart about it he felt the need to justify its legitimacy and hoped to make it an old vs new battle. Blake wasn’t stopped from making art as the subtitle states in the Salon article, he was stopped from using Close’s images and name as a way to make novelty images. And after looking at Blake’s site and his closed Close page he comes off as very immature.

  25. bcallero says:

    As an artist that uses appropriates on a regular basis, I truly understand the proper use of appropriated imagery. I really do know what I am speaking of on this subject. This artist, Scott Blake, is wrong. This article (in which the quote above was taken) is written from his point of view as some kind of a victim. Give me a break. His work IS derivative. Chuck Close didn’t order Blake to stop making art (oh, so dramatic), he asked him to stop ripping off his name and work.

    Blake should have called it the Optical Mixture Filter. After all, that is the visual device Close, and (hundreds of) other artists, utilize in their work. Blake’s big mistake, one he still fails to realize, is naming his work the Chuck Close Filter. That is the biggest issue for me.  Close didn’t invent the use of optical mixture in art, and all art that utilizes this device does not look the same.

    Blake is not appropriating in the way that Levine, Lichtenstein and even Fairey (who has his own issues) did. His comparisons and the logic behind them tells me he has a fundamental misunderstanding of what those artists were doing and the concept of appropriation in general. Bringing up Close’s fame and wealth is beside the point. Especially if he is a fan of Chuck Close’s work. Blake thinks he is a victim, which is quite pathetic.

    After all – it’s a filter. Blake must think he created a work of art.  Filter = art?  Not even close  Even my first-year students understand this fact. Blake is acting like a clown.

    • Ethan says:

      I’m pretty much 100% agree with you (and “liked” your comment) up until you argue against filter = art. I suspect you’d agree with me when I argue a filter can certainly be art if there is artistic intention behind it. If Blake was just making a cool plug-in, sure that’s a tool not an artwork. But just like a snow shovel, a filter can be an artwork if the artist is trying to express something by it (e.g., intending it to critique Close’s work or process in some way).

      • bcallero says:

        My point is that a filter is a filter. Technically there is nothing wrong with using filters to create, but he filter itself is nothing more than a tool.

        • Ethan says:

          I suspect you are mixing objections you have. As a teacher, you’ve probably had more than one student who made appalling use of Photoshop filters, with your response being that simply using a filter doesn’t mean much.

          But using & creating filters are very different things. If you accept art can be conceptual, then a filter can be art (if created with artistic intent). 

          I see filter as art as being completely analogous to some of the art I’ve done that has taken the form of browser plug-ins. Yes, most browser plug-ins are not artworks, but there’s no reason why a plug-in can’t be an artistic medium.

          In regards to Blake’s filter–it’s hard to say. It certainly could have originally been just a tool… But the way he talks about now (when framing his objection to Chuck Close), it certainly seems to have conceptual underpinnings.

          • bcallero says:

            You’re right. There are two separate issues. Filter as art, and proper use of appropriated imagery.

            A filter is not art in itself, what you do with that filter is the art. A computer is a tool as well, a very powerful tool, but a tool nonetheless. Just like your x-acto knife or pencil. Blake is taking the concept of optical mixture (something no one can really claim ownership of) and making work based of one artist’s specific use of optical mixture.

            My biggest objection is the way Blake misunderstands the proper use of appropriation. I don’t see any content (that is truly his own) here whatsoever.

          • rrh says:

            What about Ben Grosser’s robotic painting machine?

            Can we consider the machine art, or only the paint-on-canvas objects that it produces? He puts the robot on exhibition, not just the resulting paintings.

          • wysinwyg says:

            A filter is not art in itself, what you do with that filter is the art. A computer is a tool as well, a very powerful tool, but a tool nonetheless.

            I and millions of others disagree with this in principle if not in fact.  I have never heard anyone make any kind of argument — let alone a convincing one — why software should not be considered a valid artistic medium.

            Computers are tools, but tools can be art.   If sculpture is an art (it is uncontroversially an art) then obviously one can make a sculpture that is a work of art and is also a computer (or hammer or band saw or any other kind of tool).

            Can you actually explain why you think a filter cannot be art? Saying “it is a tool” does not help because tools can clearly be art. But that is your only argument so far.

          • bcallero says:

            In reply to wysinwyg: Your response is entirely missing my point. You are mixing the use of the word tool.
            I have nothing against digital art or the use of appropriation. I do both myself. I use Photoshop in my art, but my art is not Photoshop. I even use filters for effects etc. to help me make the art I want to make. Never, for a second did I think the filter was the art in itself.  That’s ridiculous. Filters are powerful digital tools that help you create. So are pencils and paintbrushes, the only difference is they are not digital.

            Scott Blake created an optical mixing filter. Nothing more.  In fact, he didn’t even create that. The algorithm for that filter was created by a student at MIT over 10 years ago.

            Scott Blake needs to give it up and go away.

          • bcallero says:

            in reply to rrh:  Ben Grosser’s machine is absolutely positively fine art.  The machine is the art and the paintings it makes are merely a product or souvenir from the machine. The machine is both sculpture and performer.

            It is interesting that you brought up that piece of art. I believe Grosser is making a statement about many things, including derivative and decorative art. The work Scott Blake is making here is all of that and more. The Chuck Close Filter is derivative, decorative and exploitive.

  26. alexdino says:

    Chuck close paints that way because he can’t perceive faces, it’s a condition called congenital prosopagnosia. He breaks the faces into small squares so that he can logically recreate the face without having to know anything about the face. Can you see now why he opposes this? This guy has taken what was a great man’s artistic triumph over a personal affliction and turned it into a gimmick. It’s insulting.

  27. At this point Chuck Close is so omnipresent in the art world that it’s unrealistic to think that he has sole control over the discourse around his work and how it fits into the development of ‘small things making pictures of big things’.  This is part of the programmers point when he talks about the computer art show that preceded Close, and how strange it is that legions of art historians writing about Close ignore it. 

    Close didn’t create his method of image making from nothing, all sorts of similar methods came before from pre-Renaissance drawings machines to the computer art show.  Other people will come after. 

    Because art is a dialogue, artists need to be able to talk about other artists work.  It’s not uncommon for a painter to make a painting “after” the style of someone else.  It makes the world a better place.

    And as for Chuck Close getting ripped off…  Did Campbell’s soup get ripped off by Andy Warhol?  No, not really.  Chuck Close at this point is no longer an artist, he’s an overwhelming omnipresence of style and historical weight.  People need to react to him to keep the dialogue going about ‘images made out of tiny images’.  It’s foolish and short sighted of Close to think that he can sit on top of his giant rock and talk to us but that we can’t talk back.

    If you see this as a legal problem you’re seeing it from the useless end.  If Chuck Close sees this as a legal problem then he’s betraying everything we’ve figured out about art since he was born. 

    I still assert that the email exchange wasn’t actually from Chuck Close, that it’s a joke on the programmer guy.  Chuck Close isn’t this unsophisticated, he isn’t this stupid.

    • Ethan says:

      Hi Tim!

      It would be funny if the email exchange had ended with Blake showing up at the studio and Close having no idea who he is.

      • I suspect that Close has a sufficient staff in place that random comers will never get within a mile of the guy.  That’s part of what bothers me about the sloppy email from Close – he has people for this sort of thing, his assistants have assistants.  Close is a company.

        • Ethan says:

          You’re probably right, but my BS meter didn’t go on this one. If the situation had been a case of someone selling unauthorized reproductions, I would have been more suspicious. But given the obvious time & love that Blake put into his filter, I can imagine giving it more personal attention.

  28. bcallero says:

    “What about people who are living in a world of media, and want to make art or music that reacts to that world? In that area of the discussion, pretty much anything other than the whole is up for grabs. And I’d personally rather see a world where we erred on the side of sometimes letting people take too much and maybe make some stupid bad art out of it then the world we live in now, where it’s so restrictive.” – Mark Hosler of Negativland

    “Copyright law does not distinguish between sampling and counterfeiting. That’s just stupid, that’s just art-oblivious, and that’s just no way to proceed in this century. Or the last one. It doesn’t bode well for the future of art that the law can’t distinguish between this simple idea that’s been around for a hundred years, that art can be made out of other art. If you prevent people from doing it, you’re really constricting art itself.” – Don Joyce of Negativland

    I agree wholeheartedly with these points of view. However, Scott Blake is not making something of his own through the style/appearance of Close’s work. He needs to realize that he is sampling too much. Naming it after the artist you are sampling doesn’t make it better.

    • wysinwyg says:

      However, Scott Blake is not making something of his own through the
      style/appearance of Close’s work.

      This gets into the debate about whether algorithms and data structures can be works of art in their own right.  I’ve heard absolutely no arguments as to why they shouldn’t be.  Furthermore, since the algorithms and data structures don’t themselves look like Chuck Close’s work one has to strain a little to even call Blake’s work “derivative”.  “Inspired by”, sure, but as we know from the movies “inspired by true events” that doesn’t mean very much.

      He needs to realize that he is sampling too much. Naming it after the artist you are sampling doesn’t make it better.

      Again, he’s not sampling at all.  The original works are 2-dimensional graphical works.  Blake’s work is a completely abstract patch of computer code.  What Blake has done is different in kind to what Close did. 

      Naming it after the artist doesn’t make it better, but unless you believe words are magic it doesn’t make it any worse either.

  29. Dave Eckblad says:

    I’ll say it here, too.  When you take an original piece of art, cut it into tiny pieces, and rearrange them as you see fit, you’re not an artist, you’re a producer.

    • Ethan says:

      It’s very thin ice to declare that a given technique is not art (or the maker an artist). For example, Robin Michals (an artist I like very much) does exactly the process you’re describing:

      http://www.e-arcades.com/20thcen/20thcen_1964.html

      Well, she does take the original photographs herself. But even they were appropriated, she’d still be an artist and not simply a “producer.”

    • teapot says:

      The problem with non-art types is that your view of what constitutes art is very narrow. The dadaists knew a couple things about taking original art, cutting it into pieces and rearranging them as they saw fit… maybe we should just invent a time machine so we can go back in history and change reality to better match your understanding of what constitutes art?

      Plus: code can be art

    • teapot says:

      No idea if this is the real you, but suggestion:
      Keep your tool but make your own tiles that simulate and mimic those of the original scans. You know as well as I and Close that you cant copyright a STYLE. Those little tiles were actually painted by Close so technically speaking they are his property. If you make your own tiles I don’t think he’s got much of a case. Then call it something tongue-in-cheek like “Close Encounters”.

    • Art says:

      If that is really you…..I can’t tell if you’re upset because Chuck Close is rich-or- you can’t use his name and style on your software. 

      But congratulations on all of your press coverage by riding his fame/name.

    • bcallero says:

      Two questions? What is your content with this work? Why is Chuck Close’s money relevant to the issue?

  30. Jeffrey Rodman says:

    Trying to monopolize the tiling technique seems akin to being the first to use a palette knife in oil painting and suing others for using the same.  Beyond that (using the Close name in website, etc.), Blake’s ground for complaint is much more shaky.  “Teapot,” above, has a tidy view and a cute solution.

    • rrh says:

      Tiling based on image luminosity is hardly a unique thing, either. There’s ASCII filters and what not. I know someone who did an algorithm to convert images into tiled dominoes. I don’t think Close is ever going to send a takedown request to any of them.

  31. horkheimer says:

    The conservative tone of the comments on Salon is ridiculous. A certain generation of art-lovers is showing its age by not understanding the centrality of “derivative” work to the current scene. The Negativland quotes are totally on point, even moreso now that we move around in a world that is completely saturated by copies upon copies of “original” works.

    The genius of Close was that he and his assistants made photorealistic paintings during the late 20th century heyday of centralized mass media. In good postmodernist form, it called attention to the importance of craft/style and process over ideal and product. His paralysis and prosopagnosia add pathos to the project, but they don’t change the historically situated point of it.

    Blake’s work is the next step. He calls attention to the naivete of early pomo “returns to form.” That is, is doesn’t matter how realistically or stylishly you paint in your little squares: these days, a computer will do it for you. So where does that leave artists? What is the point of developing a special style when a plug-in can emulate it for anyone who wants to try it on?

    I have no sympathy for Close. He and his formalist cohorts (e.g. Warhol, Hirst) knew what they were getting into when they chose to comment on contemporary aesthetic ecology rather than something more transcendent. On the upside, it made them fantastically rich (for artists), because everyone is increasingly involved in the recursive media milieu. On the downside, it’s a crowded and mutable area of inquiry that kills its darlings as a matter of course.

    • DMStone says:

      You seem to have a much better defense of Blake’s art then his “I liked it, so I sort of copied it, but its okay because I’m an artist toooo” drivel. I’m still not convinced, and if stuff like what Blake’s filter outputs is the next step then I’m going to stick with the old guard.

  32. wysinwyg says:

    I’d have more sympathy for Chuck Close if he had been the first to come up with this idea.  But he wasn’t so it just seems like rent seeking to me.  Ideas are not property, and if they were Chuck Close would have been sued by now.

    And in this case, the idea is “impressionism done poorly” so who even cares?

  33. hellishmundane says:

    this is all very silly.   hasn’t anyone else noticed what a terrible job the filter actually does of emulating the Chuck Close art style.   Chuck is not unreasonable when stating that his work is being trivialized.  it is unfortunate for this reason that scott blake wrote that article as i would have found it far more interesting to read an article about him actually going to Chuck’s studio and discussing the art in person.

  34. DMStone says:

    Blake drove too far out of his way to see the Seattle Chuck Close exhibit if he is equating an 8 x 10 inch 300 dpi image with one of Close’s massive portraits.

    Close’s tile painting appear as the furthest thing from pixels if you see them in a gallery as opposed to a book or on a computer monitor, and comparing Blake’s output is indeed trivializing.

    It frustrates me that for as little as he seems to understand Close’s work he still is trying to hide behind the rhetoric that he is an “artist,” which is frankly the only leg he has to stand on. If this was some soft drink company that created a free “Chuck Close Yourself App” as a promotion they would be rightfully criticized.

  35. DMStone says:

    Okay, this has really got me steamed…

    I think Close’s legal argument for a lawsuit was purely based on copyright, and protecting his name, but I hope he goes further and tries to establish trade dress (a form of trademark which protected Eames from knock-offs) so that his family can protect him from Blake’s nonsense in a 100 years.

  36. Ian Wood says:

    Calling someone a moron can really bolster any argument.

    It’s unnecessary, hostile and–more to the point–now I don’t really care much about what you might have to say, whether I agree with you or not. And I’m pretty sure you won’t convince anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

    It’s a simple thing to avoid. You should try it. You might find that people listen to you more often, and that your debates are more constructive.

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