Ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors began scratching depictions of Mammoths onto rocks, art has been an ever-evolving beast. Whether those changes have been out of necessity or philosophy is a murky debate, as often the two factors or deeply entwined. However, the principles of change often have the same backbone, and centuries later a great many artists would still agree with Aristotle’s mantra when he said: “The purpose of art is to represent the meaning of things. This represents true reality, not external aspects.”
Alejandro Vigilante is a disciple of that artistic mindset. He began life in the world of art namely as a muralist, however, when he was in New York to witness the harrowing fall of the Twin Towers, his outlook on art was changed forever. From that moment on, he set about incorporating the growing medium of the internet into art, and in the process, he became known as the founder of the iArt movement.
As he explains in the interview below, this art revolution was his innovative response to reflect a changing world. The internet, in its own way, is an ever-unfurling art gallery with its own unique subtext, and Alejandro Vigilante’s work aims to not only reflect that but incorporate it directly. As ever with art, the question of whether he has achieved this is answered in the pictures themselves and your own individual judgement of them.
Far Out: For those who perhaps don’t know, in short, what is iArt?
Vigilante: “iArt is an artistic movement created in 2001 after the falling of the Twin Towers on September the 11th. I took specific elements of the great Pop Artist’s Andy Warhol, Robert Roschembert and Roy Liechtenstein to create the language of this movement. It’s a kind of neo-pop that gathers the language and symbolism of the internet, creating a new virtual and interactive world in my paintings.”
You are credited as the creator of the movement; where did the genesis of the idea come from?
“At that time, the world was living during a revolution in communications, the way we received and sent information was changing. The internet was a very important part of my daily basis, a big flow of communications through email, chat rooms, blogs and websites.
“Like the movie You’ve Got Mail, I was always checking my emails. For me, it was like all that new world was asking me to show it off in a work of art.”
Would you say that it came out of the tragedy of 9/11 in the way that Dadaism came out of WW1 or that it is, in fact, a celebration of the boon of the internet? Perhaps both?
“Yes, this idea came up after the falling of the Twin Towers because, for me, it was easier getting in touch with my friends and family in Argentina via email than phone calls. This traumatic event made me realise that this new way of communication and information will change the world in all senses.
“That day, my brain made a click, and I started to visualise the way I would present to the people my vision in a painting. So yes, clearly it was a combination of both factors that merged to give birth to the iArt Movement.”
How influential was Andy Warhol when you made the transition to iArt?
“Yes, Andy Warhol was a very important fundamental for my new-born style because at that time I was studying the American Pop Artists and I had all my attention on Pop Art. However, it was Roy Lichtenstein with his painting That Melody Haunts My Reverie that caught my attention, and I said, ‘That Email haunts my reverie’. Another important influencer was Robert Roschembert, who, with his technique ‘Transfer Image’, made me think that what computers and cell phones do is transferring images and that will be the perfect language for iArt.”
Your art features a lot of pop culture images; what inspires the choices you make in terms of selecting an image?
“My source of inspiration is the internet. I got inspiration from the daily events happening everywhere in the world, which become popular phenomenon’s, information that becomes trending topics.
“Emails were a great source of inspiration for me. I would think, ‘what emails would Marilyn Monroe send, for instance, and to whom? What subjects would her emails address or what she would tweet, or what would be her status on Facebook? Social media provides me with a lot of inspiration. I feel a special attraction to the meta-language incorporated on these apps, which is always present in my painting. This meta-language always plays a relevant role.”
Do you think that internet aspects such as memes could be considered art?
“Yes, a meme is art. Every single thing that the internet brings to the screen of my computer is art. Everything that has a design behind it is, this is the fundamental idea of iArt. I consider everything that I see on the screen of my computer or cell phone as art.”
What are your thoughts on NFT art?
“All virtual art is prior to NFT. What was done in the past was to create a blockchain code in order to generate an NFT, which already existed as a virtual painting. For me, the only thing new is the code. Virtual art has been around for a long time and is a very important element of the iArt movement. It is vital, however, that iArt generates a bridge between virtual art and real and tangible art pieces. I start all my artworks from the virtual world, I first design my paintings on my computer, but then I materialise them in a tangible work of art made with real paint and brushes on canvas.”
What are you currently working on?
“I am constantly working on improving my techniques, and new themes as new elements and popular artists show up in order to provide new artwork to the galleries and followers.
“I am currently working on an exhibition in honour of the Korean singer Hojoong Kim, which is a very comprehensive showcase of the most important moments of his career that will take place in Seoul next year.
Any final thoughts on the movement and its future in art?
“The internet changed our communication speed, and the way information is generated and spread, and this fact increased during the recent pandemic. One of the postulations of iArt, which I created 20 years ago, is that the time between cause and effect would be shortened, and the result would be an increase in the amount of information we receive. This is self-evident nowadays. We are living in a world of changes; speed is increasing, and the world of electronics and A.I. is bringing more challenges to our society, and we need to adapt to these changes. Art’s spark of light will always be necessary to connect us with our essence. Somehow the artist transforms nature and the values of his time which, in turn, transforms himself.”
See an example of Vigilante’s work below, and view his website, here.