11 Net Artists You Should Know

“Internet art” has been around as long as long as the Internet itself. A renegade thing, it’s always on the edge of new technology, with its medium functioning as its own platform. GIFs, CAPTCHA codes, found imagery, experimental social networks — the manifestations and run-off of our daily online experience is all ripe fodder for the net artist. There has been some exciting new work floating around lately, so instead of taking you back to some ’80s cave drawing era of net art, we’ll introduce you to a few fun recent net artists, ranging from the tongue-in-cheek early Internet throwbacks to the user-friendly art “tools” anyone can enjoy. Disclaimer: If you think art is pretty paintings of pretty things, this little primer isn’t for you. In any case, we welcome your constructive snark! Proceed.

Santa Barbara-based Petra Cortright is one of the most alluring web artists to ever exhibit at the New Museum. Alright, her manipulated YouTube videos are just damn mesmerizing. At a particularly poignant moment in her career, her early work VVEBCAM was censored from YouTube for her endless use of offensive keywords like “sex” “fuck” “orgy” “slut,” even though the content was rather innocent — a passive self-portrait interrupted by the shuffling of random, cartoon-ish web imagery as it was “consumed” by the artist. It is now backed up on Rhizome, and the incident is immortalized in academic circles.

Portland’s Rollin Leonard can be described as a remix body artist. His net oeuvre has a very particular, charming freak quality. Using meticulously photographed elements of himself and recruited models, portions of his practice focus on translating the 3D human form into flat 2D imagery and the complications of dissembling the flesh into malleable pixels. When his works re-form as organic structures, magic happens. It all looks equally good projected on a gallery wall, but it’s comforting to know that you can conjure the thousand-armed Leonard-beast onto your computer screen, any time.

Canadian net artist Lorna Mills has been exhibiting since the early ’90s in several genres, from Super 8 film to painting to Cibachrome printing, but her addictive animated GIFs alone are a reason to hang out on Google+. She uses the net’s bounty of imagery as a canvas to crumple, slice, stomp, and leave gyrating images on your screen. These abstract pieces above have an almost Bacon-esque quality, emanating a mixture of madness and joy.

New York’s heavyweight creative freelancer Greg Leuch is a virtual fellow of Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) — an outstanding hive/goldmine of net-friendly artists. The designer/developer/hacker gent has brought the world such functional, pop-culture infused works of net art such as the Shaved Bieber — an add-on that completely censors your text and image net experience from Justin Bieber — and the Lowercase Kanye. Guess what it does! Leuch’s art practice contemplates the implications of net censorship and commerce. He’s currently working on a collaborative tool for organizing the Internet. Whoa.

“Is this… art?” Michael Guidetti has worked in many various mediums and you may have seen his sculptural, digital-art hefty environments in a gallery or observed the above digital Ocean undulating above an ocean on a monitor screen. Personally, we’d recommend falling into the assaulting chasm of GIF and code randomness at yyyyyyy.info. It’s like sticking your head into the mangled guts of the web.

We’ve written about the subversive art duo of Eva and Franco Mattes quite a few times before, but with their artistic and philosophical practice so deeply rooted in our common Internet experience, it would be a crime to miss mentioning some of their projects. The very controversial piece No Fun recorded Chatroulette reactions to a mock suicide. They’ve also utilized Second Life as an environment for recreating famous performance art pieces. Digging deeper into the dark side, they are currently working on recording “YouTube reaction style” videos of volunteers watching one of the most disturbing video artifacts culled from the twisted side of the web. The final result of the project is yet undisclosed.

New York City artist Ryder Ripps has unleashed several web-based creatures, co-founding the image chat platform/”surfing club”  Dump.fm and collaborating with Ryan Trecartin. Even M.I.A. grabbed herself a piece. Look at this one. Ooh. Sure, there’s a bevy of artists/designers/developers doing similar things, but Ripp’s got a sort of grandiose unabashed swagger about it. And if anyone can make you moan and bleat at your computer screen with your tongue out, it’s him — as a partner of digital agency OKFocus, he has recently co-launched something called Draw With Your Face. So, uh, go draw with your face.

As part of the 8bitpeoples collective and the curator of the international Blip Festival, Brooklyn-based artist/musician Jeremiah Johnson works with the themes of appropriation, order, and chaos through new, net, and consumer media. His projects include the Void Gaze project, pairing an early-Internet-style text adventure game with abstract computer drawings, and appropriating portions of email spam into #poeticsspam. He’s made some very beautiful things.

Los Angeles-based artist Jeremy Rotsztain writes custom software that collects and reforms his visual materials into painterly, digital pieces — warped representational echoes and vibrant abstract entities. His sources could be anything from Flickr photos to classic landscape painting to, as in the case above, “textured samples” of characters from Blade Runner of various brightness levels, comprised to form a 3D portrait of Harrison Ford as Lieutenant Deckard. In many cases, he just gets his source imagery “from the Internet,” the net artist’s free-for-all.

Fresh Cal Arts alum Yung Jake hit the sweet spot between new media art and viral Internet video with his piece Datamosh. Sure, you could, for example, watch Nicolas Provost employ a similar technique with some sophisticated sampling of Videodrome, but unlike Yung Jake’s rap video/meta-commentary, his video won’t leave you ROFL. As a follow up, the promising prankster released an interactive, multi-window follow up E.m-bed.de/d. It’s an experience. Indulge yourself. More please!