An introduction to the work of Peter Schwartz

J.F. Lynch

Abstract Expressionism is, if nothing else, about paint as a material. The artists who constituted the first generation of abstract expressionists made sure that the flat surface of the canvas remained exactly that—flat—and often chose their paints for the way the paint acted naturally. A brand's viscosity would be far more important than its longevity, perhaps even more than its color. Abstract expression is really only defined by its use of paint and, in short, the drip was God.

So what happens to abstract expressionism if paint is eliminated? Can the movement be transferred to another medium? If you think not, digital artist Peter Schwartz may prove you wrong. His pieces are a true balance of soul and software. Through the image one can almost see the cursor follow the mouse movements across the digital plane. The lines are an interpretation of subtle shakes occurring at an incalculable distance. The markings created are reminiscent of a painter holding a long brush, just by the tip of the handle, and standing at a distance. But I find the really interesting aspect of Schwartz's work to be the moments where the computer's truest nature peeks through the artist's hand. This comes in the form of the right angle. The strongest example of this appears in a piece that the artist has given the ironic, or perhaps self-deprecating title, Hokum.

A bright bar floats like a Transformer ™ decoder over the fanning shape that fills the picture field. Besides simply making a startling, and stunning, gouge in what would have been a calming plane, it also takes away any doubt the viewer may have had that the work has been created digitally. Is this bar the “hokum” referred to in the title or is the whole piece “hokum” due to this bar, (hokum in one sense refers to low-brow humor interjected into a larger work and in another is just a euphemism for bullshit)? With the exception of Hokum, Schwartz's titles are usually a sort of answer to the riddle of the piece (see Anthropology and Vamp also featured below). But regardless of whether you prefer to be led to an interpretation, or would rather have the work you view left unsolved, Peter Schwartz's digital paintings are worth consideration.

-J.F. Lynch