Computer Folk Art
by Curtis Freeman, P.h. D.

From brainflash to pixel in under twenty seconds! These rudimentary images, seemingly self-generated, seemingly owing little to exterior influence (save what slithers through the crevices of one's own pop-culture supercollider) have a surprisingly organic origin. In the colorful, minimalist images created by David Rickett -- a self-described "Computer Folk artist" from Hollywood -- we get more than just pixelized landscapes, more than just bizarre, computer-generated creatures populating odd landscapes -- we get the distinct impression we are entering a strange, new world -- both conceptually and technologically.

According to a recent interview (conducted on the eve of his recent Art Crawl opening), Rickett is a firm believer in spontaneous generation. His pictures, he claims, often draw themselves. "At worst, they're less than primitive," he insists, with characteristic modesty. The truth is that at their best, Rickett's often melancholy figures not only engage us visually but subconsciously -- they wail mournfully, tragically, sometimes seductively to the unsuspecting viewer, aimed directly at the subconscious, implanting their deceptively simple color schemes and postmodern desires directly into the jaded, computer-lobotomized brains populating this Brave New World we happily call the 21st century.


Sometimes Rickett's images seem to be playing us for laughs, their stoic simplicity sardonically mocking our technically convoluted, T.V.-scrambled and cyberspace-polluted minds. Sometimes a darker side is evident. In "Punching" (2002), Rickett assumes a Godlike perspective while observing inevitable intercontinental drift. With "Screamer," he challenges our perceptions of fate and life after death by depicting the exact nanosecond before a major traffic collision occurs -- tragically yet humorously conjuring a faceless yet cheerful driver seated behind the wheel of a cartoon sedan, wallowing in a state of blissful ignorance just before the inevitable moment of his agonizing (and unexpected) decapitation.

But this soon-to-be-screaming (and dying) motorist is not the only of Rickett's overly-cheerful personalities to be captured at the apex of tragedy. In fact, many of his works seem to "scream" desperate warnings of imminent doom. Indeed, the primary colors of the Day-Glo landscapes themselves seem to call out from their primitive beginnings. They wail pitiably into the dark, technological, postmodern night our technological wizards have gleefully created. The beckon us in our dreams, they zero in on our worst Freudian nightmares while evoking thoughts and desires from another dimension, another plane of reality altogether, creating a frightening, post-"1984" civilization that we willingly populate but rarely question. They cry out mournfully from the cavernous tomb of our collective subconscious, praying that the pained and mournful cries of our past may someday be reconciled and finally recognized as the true voices of reason, the true voices of sanity, the tragically prophetic voices of innocence and simplicity and blissful naiveté that sadly -- in all likelihood -- will never again see the waning light of day.

But Rickett is not merely a minimalistic surrealist -- he is an irrepressibly humorous one at that. He mocks us with his simplicity while entertaining us on the basest, most primal level. He chuckles at the futility of modern Man while offering us few answers; he truly seems to relish the idea of global and sociological uncertainty. He is arguably the most nihilistic of the postmodern, twentieth-century artists to emerge from this country, yet he brilliantly never loses his sense of wry, pop-culture commentary. In a honest and workmanlike manner, he blends the simple elements of comedy and tragedy into a single, ironic, sometimes ambiguously postmodern depiction of repressed humanity in a consumer-controlled, commercialized society -- and he does it with style.

 

Rickett is an original, perhaps the first legitimate surrealist minimalist of the twenty-first century. He is not just a Computer Folk artist, but an artist, period -- a wry and thoughtful observer of the human condition. Simply put, he is an original -- a burgeoning talent to watch, and discover.

-- Spring, 2004

 

Computer Folk Artist, David Rickett

Painting by Parris Patton

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