LAURENCE GARTEL, “THE FATHER OF DIGITAL ART”, HAS BOLDLY GONE WHERE NO ARTIST WENT BEFORE
Laurence Gartel is a living legend. Hailed as the first graphic artist of the digital age, Laurence Gartel stands at the top of his artistic niche as the acknowledged “Father of Digital Art”. A born and bred New Yorker, he perfected his iconoclastic style with the likes of Andy Warhol, whom he introduced to computer artistry even before Mac and the PC came on the scene. Like Warhol, Gartel blurred the line and created a bridge between fine art and graphic artistry.
Gartel’s trailblazing in digital art was unthinkable when he started his career in 1975. He was working at the University at Buffalo, Media Study Department on analog system computers when he met video guru Nam June Paik.
Nam June Paik went on to write the Introduction to what is thought to be the first book on digital art: “Laurence Gartel: A Cybernetic Romance” published by Gibbs Smith in 1989. The same year, Gartel created the first cover of Forbes Magazine and held an exhibition of works titled, “Nuvo Japonica” made on a Commodore Amiga Computer that replaced Van Gogh’s “Irises” at the Joan Whitney Payson Gallery in Portland, Maine.
Gartel’s vision was to create electronic images by capturing them with a still camera off a monitor, as there were no saving devices or software to store the created picture. In 1985, he delivered the keynote speech at the First Pan Pacific Computer Conference in Melbourne, Australia predicting the future of the world, which landed him on the front page of The Australian Newspaper. This was the same year he taught Andy Warhol how to use the Amiga Computer to create the album cover for Debbie Harry (Blondie). It was a moment when “Pop Art met Digital Art”.
In the true innovative sense, Gartel received the commission to produce ABSOLUT GARTEL for Absolut Vodka, utilizing the first digital camera by Canon. The “file” itself was 900K – less than a megabyte. This astounded everyone as to how something with “low” resolution could command the attention of the advertising and art world. He was also featured in Apple’s famous “Think Different” ad and has created works of art for Coca-Cola, the National Basketball Association, and other top brands and personalities.
Gartel achieved the prodigious accomplishment of having his work hanging in the Museum of Modern Art before he turned 25, and he remains on the cutting edge of his profession today. His resume includes exhibits at Palm Beach Photographic Center, a museum retrospective at the Norton Museum of Art, Joan Whitney Payson Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, Bibliotheque Nationale Paris, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern History at the Smithsonian to name a few.
His work has also graced the pages and covers of many well-known magazines such as Forbes, ART-IN-AMERICA, Artforum, Sotheby’s, Art and Auction, Art and Antiques, ArtByte, Scientific American, and NY Magazine.
The artist’s 40-year career has touched all points of the globe: from creating a Bollywood-style video and music multimedia work commissioned by Universal Studios; to delivering the keynote speech at the Fotographica Congress in Orvieto, Italy to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Globus Family Trust; official artist of the 57th Grammy Awards; artist of the Newport Jazz Festival; NASA MMS Launch at Kennedy Space Center; official artist of the Monaco International Film Festival, to being the feature of the Oslo Motor Show in Norway.
These days, Gartel, who now calls Miami home, has shifted gears taking his art to a whole new frontier – car art. His commissioned creations include a Tesla Electric Art Roadster, a Ferrari Scuderia 430, a 1984 Rolls Royce Spirit, a 1957 Lincoln Premier Convertible, a 1959 Fleetwood Cadillac Limousine, and a 1963 Chevy Pickup among other fine or classic vehicles. Each iconic paint job tells a story.
For instance, Gartel says, “On the 1959 Cadillac I depict the space race against the former Soviet Union as well as Castro’s influence and the addition of Hawaii as America’s 50th state.” His ‘Auto-Motion’ exhibition has been captured on film for the big screen in Britain, Australia, and many other countries around the globe, as well as in a luxury edition of a hard-bound coffee table book. He followed that up with his ‘Supercar’ series and then, in 2012, with the Fireball Run: Northern Exposure film and live streaming event.
Gartel earned a BFA degree in Graphics at the School of Visual Arts where he interacted with renowned graffiti artist Keith Haring. He studied for an MA in Photography under Arthur Leipzig at CW Post College and later began his electronic career working side by side with video guru Nam June Paik at Media Study/Buffalo in upstate New York in 1975.