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Elrod black and white abstract painting
Elrod black and white abstract painting

Jeff Elrod, Bubble Puppy, 2013. Acrylic on canvas.


There is no foreground or background. The hypersmooth surfaces resist any impressionistic sanctuary. The fast, sinuous marks that cut across the color are not weighted with the fragility of the human hand. But the marks are familiar, at least for anyone who has spent time in front of a graphics software program, and they are made by hand.

The 47-year-old artist, Jeff Elrod, who splits his time between Marfa, Texas, and New York, refined his approach to abstraction in the late ’90s, taking the Warholian or Christopher Woolian tactic of rerouting the painter’s touch with more industrial tools one step further: Elrod favors the mouse, using his hand to create a series of smooth, vector-based, free-style design motifs—the backgrounds of Illustrator- and Photoshop-mimicking modernist color-field paintings. In the early days, Elrod would station a camera behind his shoulder, and as he scrawled dozens of designs on the screen, he’d take pictures that he’d turn into slides, select, and project onto a canvas. He’d mark off the white computer lines with masking tape before applying his all-over palates of acrylic or spray-paint. “I use automatic drawing as a device to make images with,” he explains. “But I’m a formalist painter. It’s always about the form, the composition. My task is to get the painting off the screen and onto the canvas.”

Elrod’s technique has modified in the past decade as the tricks of Photoshop have evolved—color gradients, spray effects, and even the option of scanning a potential background scrap that he has found in his studio all now crop up in his large-scale works, compounding the complexity of transferring the image onto the canvas in his Sunset Park studio. Nevertheless, Elrod’s mediation still happens with his use of the mouse between him and the machine. “I’m very comfortable with the screen,” he says. “For me, it’s a very natural way to draw. The space is a screen instead of a window.”

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