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AleatoricArt at RED DOT Fair/Art Basel Miami week 2011

Call it a fluke, a stroke of luck if you like, but there’s no question about it: there is a movement afoot. Make no mistake it’s definitely an accident and it’s waiting to happen in Miami. Coming this December, MAMA, the Movement of Aleatoric Modern Artists, will be shocking, rocking and schlock-blocking Miami’s Art Basel for the third consecutive year and with MAMA’s tumescent growth in membership and the hyper-prolific artistic outs-pewing of the vets of this burgeoning agitation it promises to confuse, jar, discombobulate, and exhilarate venue goers corpse-ishly stoic and hysterically giddy alike. If you’re like I was not so long ago you’re probably asking yourself “what is aleatoric art and what makes it so earth-curdlingly stupefying?” The answer is, if two heads are better than one, how great must it be if one of those heads is the biggest head of all, Mom Nature! Yes Aleatoric Art is the ultimate collaboration between man and the elements. Happenstance, randomness and a twist of fate’s unwilling wrist go in halfseys with some of the most outstanding visionaries the planet can boast in a peaceful yet often violent serendipity of creative cacophony to produce works of art that go far beyond those of mere mortals alone. And you can witness this transmogrification of the face of art itself right before your very twitching, bugged out eyes this year at Red Dot Fair during Art Basel Miami. If you miss this severed off and bleeding stump of history you’ll be putting yourself at a grave disadvantage in terms of your art appreciation skills come Armageddon because, at the rate this movement is multiplying, Aleatoric Art will consume every single artistic thing in the universe by this time next Thursday! Be a part or fall that way and warn your friends of this must-see extremaganza.

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This gallery contains 3 photos.

Amazing is a word built for things that inspire awe, wonder, possibly even astonishment, though it has, like so many fortifying adjectives such as “so” and “very” been misused by attention-starved reporters of the unremarkable. “Dude, I saw the most … Continue reading

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Cats Don’t Paint

I came across a book several years ago called “Why Cats Paint” in which the author attempted to justify the torture of his pets, which he dipped in paint causing them to struggle to wipe their paws onto canvases to which they were confined, by suggesting that there was a latent vestige of artistic inspiration in their furry little minds that needed to be unleashed. He actually claimed he was freeing their “mews” by providing them with a creative outlet. Thinking it a compliment to anthropomorphize an animal who is blissfully unburdened by the psychological dysfunction that defines our species, the author goes so far as to compare the haphazard besmirchments of his victims to works of the great masters. He further tried to deceive his readers by including what few photos he managed to take in which the animals showed no noticeable signs of distress. But I knew. The work his unwilling quadrupedal “artists” produced under duress told of their pain, even with the limitations of their painting technique, not to mention lack of awareness of what they were doing. I came away with a feeling of great sympathy for the exploited animals and contempt for the author.

Years later I discovered the exciting world of aleatoric art. The concept of incorporating the element of chance into the process of creating art opened my eyes to new possibilities beyond my wildest imagination, and even beyond the boundaries of my interest whatsoever. I thought about that book and had an epiphany. What the author was really doing was, in retrospect even more reprehensible than at first I’d thought. He was catipalizing, er, capitalizing on helpless innocent felines for his own monetary gains, and in the process, giving aleatoric art a bad name.

I was at the Coney Island Boardwalk one afternoon when I came across a cart vendor who was making a modest living with a device that consisted of a spinning turntable upon which he attached paper plates. The customers could, for just a nickel, squeeze different colors of liquid tempera from plastic mustard bottles onto the spinning plate to produce original works of art that resembled random flower forms or starbursts due to the centrifugal force spreading the paint in all directions. They were quite beautiful and I had to try it for myself. After throwing an all out tantrum to get my mother to shell out the nickel I began squirting every color available onto the rotating canvas, ignoring the vendor’s warning that too many colors would not yield desirable effects, and, inexplicably, I ended up with a hideous brown soggy mess. And although my effort was an unmitigated failure it was my first experience as an aleatoric artist.

Around that same time in my life the first color TVs started appearing in the stores and I went with my father to pick one out. I remember seeing RGB static for the first time. I was astounded by those colors, colors that had never been seen before coming through a cathode ray tube in a random chaotic pattern. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and on some level inspired me immensely.

I went home and tried to draw what I’d seen on paper with crayons and immediately discovered that it was impossible to produce the same effect of light shining through the back of a black screen (additive process) with pigments on a white sheet of paper (subtractive process). In my childish stupidity for years I believed in the existence of new colors outside the known spectrum that were as yet undiscovered and I tried to imagine them.

Aleatoric art with its ability to show us things we might never have imagined in a million years as traditional artists, evokes that kind of childlike wonder and awe. That naive yet blissfull ignorance that we try to retain for our children as long as possible by reinforcing their belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But why perpetuate a lie to our children only to have them discover the charade and become that much more jaded and disillusioned. Why not be Santa Claus, but a more believable version? Why not leave a basket at the foot of their beds every morning, make them hunt for their eggs at breakfast time, instead of scrambling the damn things for them.

Art is a metaphor for life and aleatoric art is a metaphor for a more holistic, green, or globally conscious lifestyle that cooperates with our planet and it’s chaotic, and thus indestructible, balance. Aleatoria is an analogous model for peaceful co-existence and for an understanding and belief in the perfect equilibrium that has been achieved by evolution. In alignment with Eastern philosophy in which disaster and opportunity are synonymous the movement of aleatoric modern artists knows why cats paint: Because some idiot forced them to! Note the similarity between the traditional Zen rock garden and the litter box and you will realize why cats don’t need to paint. They are masters of meditation and much can be learned by simply observing them. Dogs? Well that’s a different story.

by Ray Cabarga

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Black Squares

Steel Wrinkles by Allan Rodewald

Since modern art, in its early infancy, first learned to say Dada experts have been a little sketchy as to the difference between precedent-setting genius and a wet clean-up on aisle 5 at Kelly-Moore.

Back in the days when Michelangelo roamed the earth there was little question about it. Mike was cranking out the good stuff; his drunken one-eyed neighbor, Lefty Fagioli, was not. And rightly Big M got the Sistine Chapel gig; Lefty was flippin’ burgers at the Coliseum commissary.

Unfortunately, after several dozen movements, a gang of periods, and a revolution or two in art history it’s not that simple anymore. I entered a major art competition recently giving very little thought to the prospect of actually winning, especially when I saw some of the other entries: hot chicks with big racks, artists with the same last name as one of the judges—I mean, I was up against some wicked talent. But it’s kind of like the lottery: you can’t lose if you don’t play.

The big day finally arrived and the winners were to be announced. I was primed to see what kind of unfathomably gorgeous, heart-stopping masterpiece executed with inhumanly-flawless technique would beat out over 10,000 contestants. I opened the page and saw black squares. My first thought was I needed to subscribe to view the results otherwise I’d get this censored version. As I was getting out my credit card I read the interview with the first place winner. He was describing how he had used several different markers and inks to go over the black many times to make sure it was “really” black.

My first thought was, he cheated. Somebody tipped him off. He got an anonymous phone call.

“Listen pal, y’know that big competition you’re about to enter?”

“Yes? What should I do?”

“Black squares.”

“Really, that’s what they’re looking for?
Just black squares?”

“That’s it. Just black squares.
Ya can’t go wrong.”

“Gee thanks mister!”

“But you better make sure they’re
REALLY black!”

I could have done black squares. I’m good at squares, and black I’ve got. Darn, if only I’d known! Then I would have been the greatest artist in the whole wo— Wait a minute, no I wouldn’t have! Who’s smokin’ muggles?

Maybe the “good” receptors in my visual cortex were on the fritz and needed to be re-calibrated. So I scrounged up a date and we headed for LACMA . When I entered I saw a large piece of butcher paper with a pencil drawing of a penny. It was perfect. A flawless photo-realistic reproduction of a 5 foot diameter penny. I was excited! Apparently they were going to start having penny admission day at the museum soon. Then I saw an SUV, perfectly drawn in pencil on butcher paper. Then a postage stamp, in pencil, butcher paper, perfect. I was worried. If this is art then my Canon digital SLR is gonna be famous.

I moved on. Something diverted my eye from my feet negotiating the terrazzo. It was an unusual mixed-medium type of affair with no outstanding features to speak of, but maybe I just wasn’t looking closely enough. So I read the title…that didn’t help. What’s this, the medium is oil paint and elephant dung? Interesting. I’ve experimented with flow enhancers to make the paint move a little better but then I noticed a brown lump on the canvas. And my first thought was, “No he didn’t!”

He had, and among the other exhibits, there was a blinking eye on a video monitor, a plastic blow-up cartoon outer-space alien, Some pink neon thing, an original oil on canvas by Arshile Gorky…Wait a minute, what’s that doing here? I was like “huh?” to say the least, thoroughly discombobulated to say the most. I saw some other museum patrons: a perfectly reasonable looking couple in their early 30s. I didn’t want to bias their answer so I asked a completely neutral question.

“Can you believe the garbage they’re calling art these days”?

The gentleman looked at me and smiled (indicating to me he was of sound mind) and said, “I have to agree with you. My wife and I were just saying the same thing. But there is that Gorky back there, did you see it?”

“Yeah, it was beautiful, what a mind, eh”? I said. They both nodded in agreement and we went our separate ways. I caught up with my date. Just an arm-piece really, thought I’d introduce her to some culture. Show her there’s other places to see beauty, besides in a mirror. As I approached my naive little junior student of the arts she was scratching her blond head and giving me a funny look.

She walked up to me and said, “Can you believe the garbage they’re calling art these days?”

Oh, she’s a wise guy, eh? She probably overheard me talking to that couple. I’ll put her to the test.

“But did you see that pencil drawing of the penny?”

She raised one eyebrow and said, “Well it was expertly executed, but what was the point? It was completely devoid of any artistic virtue other than the rendering technique itself, which, as anyone with half a brain knows, does not an artist make.”

I indicated she was right by sticking my tongue out at her.

So it’s a farce. The whole art world has it’s head up it’s collective duff and everyone knows it. Could it be the “emperors new cloaks” syndrome? Some big-shot art critic, whom no one had the chutzpah to question, had a lapse in judgment, it looked like fun, so now all the big-shot art critics are doing it? Or is it just like politics: somebody gets paid off and next thing you know Gorky is surrounded by kindergartners?

Why then do I toil endlessly to drag vestiges of genius from my enfeebled creative muscle when it’s not the muse it’s the moolah that garners the kind of fame and fortune we all dream about, but only those with the black squares to back it up ever achieve?

The answer is simple: I am a victim of free will. I live life in the oncoming lane and I don’t always roll with the punches, sometimes I punch back. Black squares, elephant dung, decapitated Barbie dolls swimming in goats blood, are all defiant statements made to call out the rigid-minded and complacent and say, “Aw gee mom, leftovers again?” Well you certainly put mom in her place.

But wait, mom worked hard on that lasagna, what do you suggest she serve for dinner? Elephant dung? Mom just stormed out of the kitchen in a huff and forgot to turn off the oven. Unless somebody comes up with something better than mom’s leftover lasagna, you’d better serve it up.

Too late! Black squares!

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The Deliberate Accident


Justinus Kerner- A signature illustrated with a Klecksographie 1879

Essay: Ever since Leonardo da Vinci urged artists to search for inspiration in the dirt on walls or the streaked patterns in stones, they have found that the accidental blot, the chance mark, or the naturally occurring stain can be a starting point for some extraordinary art… more

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The Burning Question


Boy with new balloon by Stoffell De Roover

Why make aleatoric art?

There are many reasons ranging from “oops, it was an accident.” to “because it wasn’t there.” But most artists agree that art mimics life. The Aleatoric artist simply takes that literally to conclude that if art mimics life, then the process of making art must mimic the process of making life. And if that is true, then art would come from a place that mimics the place from which life comes. So his next question is…

Where does life come from?

After fending off a flurry of solicitous advances by various supreme beings, divine creators, and holy deities, he finds the answer: Life comes from ooze. Fetid, festering primordial ooze. Residual sediment from the formation of our planet itself seething and bubbling with nitrogenous organic compounds, amino acids, and other prebiotic elements. And with the anxious tenacity of a starving young artist, it somehow finds a way to evolve. Perhaps sparked by something ejected from a passing comet, the spontaneous formation of complex polymers occurs and cells begin to divide and multiply. In a chain reaction, life takes shape, assumes a corporeal form, grows teeth, legs and other assorted appendages, until it has enough things sticking out of it that it can feel itself, and thus have self-awareness, self-consciousness… the essence of life.

Where does aleatoric art come from?

A process not dissimilar to that which produces life. The perfect mixture of elements sit dormant waiting for a spark. That is the point at which the aleatoric artist strikes and suddenly, a metamorphosis takes place. Once the transformation has been completed, he signs his name to it.

Sound simple? It’s not

The Aleatoric artist spends most of his time cultivating the perfect setting and conditions for this miracle to occur, and art is finicky. Too cold and the ooze remains dormant and eventually just smells bad. Too warm and it grows out of control and gets all over the carpet. Just look at it funny and it dies. And the aleatoric artist must never sleep because, the instant he closes his eyes, the precious pile of goo he’s been guarding will suddenly jump up and start wobbling around the room like a newly ambulatory infant, pulling down table cloths, knocking over lamps, and scaring the cat. Invariably the aleatoric hatchling must be subdued to keep it from destroying the house, and itself.

And that was the easy part

The exhausted aleatoric artist must now come up with an explanation for how he produced this masterpiece and what it symbolizes. This is where God is useful and he will invoke the name of any supreme being available in an attempt to give his art meaning and purpose.

Kahlil Gibran expressed it well in one of those little things he wrote, although he was talking about children. I just changed a few words. But basically he said, and I misquote:

“Your artworks are not your artworks.

They are the paintings and sculptures of art’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though you offer them for sale,

Sometimes you can’t give them away.

You may give them your love but not your life,

For art has a life of its own.

You may choose the medium but not the colors,

For the colors look different after they’ve been mixed,

which you cannot predict, not even on a color chart.

You may strive to be like your art,

but seek not to make your art look like you.

For nobody cares what you looked like yesterday.

You are the loading dock from which your artworks,

as framed canvases, are shipped out.

The curator senses that the work is marketable,

and he pressures you with his deadlines,

that this exhibit may put him on the map.

Let your hard work in the curators hands make you money;

For even as he doubts that you’ll make him rich,

He loves that you keep trying.”

                    —Kahlil Gibran, (sort of).

So I pose now this question to you: Why make aleatoric art? Or more to the point, how do you stop it? After we tried burning it, washing it away, beating it, painting it black, waiting for it to rot, going out into the desert as far away as possible—We’ve even tried filling it with water until it explodes—We’ve come to the conclusion that we can’t stop it. Because, as Kahlil says, It’s not ours to stop.

Ray Cabarga

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How to…

A Night at the Opera by Ray Cabarga

How to…

All art can be considered, to some degree, aleatoric in that it would be impossible to control every aspect of it. the impressionists allowed a greater degree of chance to pervade their work than did the classical masters, and the abstract expressionists even more so. Dadaist intentionally used aleatoric techniques as a reactionary counterpoint to or rebellion against artistic traditions of the past. From this point of view the term aleatoric would seem refer to, not a type of art, but a degree to which the art is controlled by the artist. But the Movement of Aleatoric Modern Artists considers those periods to be precursors to true aleatoric art, a form which we recognize as a mature evolution of those past periods. The elements of chance are seen, not as by-products of the creative process, but an integral, if not central, part.

Among the methods of creating aleatoric are are:  

• Initiating a state of chaos with conventional art supplies—pouring, splashing, spilling and otherwise freely applying paints and mediums to substrates and optionally moving them in other uncontrolled or haphazard ways and letting them settle as they will.

• Waiting for chaos to become art—Setting out various materials, optionally subjecting them to various natural forces such as erosion, temperature extremes, destructive organisms or other hostile environments and allowing sufficient time for transformation such as cracking, natural decay, evaporation etc. to occur.

• Setting up circumstances for chaos to become art—Creating an environment in which otherwise chaotic elements are constrained by various means such as filters, chemical reactions, or enclosing structures, barriers, baffles or channels.

• Freezing chaos at the moment it becomes art—Using high speed photography to capture specific instances in the duration of an chaotic sequence such as smoke rising, water or other liquids flowing, or splashing, fish swimming, or fire burning.

• Searching through chaos for art that has occurred—Studying, excavating, or hunting for serendipitous accidents in nature or manmade ruins collecting or photographing the object and presenting it out of context as art.

• Allowing animals to play with art supplies—giving cats, dogs, or any non-human creature carte blanche to  do as they will with art materials (note: This  should only be done with non-toxic materials under safe conditions so no animals are harmed in the making of art)

• Combining things that are not art until combined—Sometimes called “found object art,” this method involves collecting objects and materials and arranging them in an artistic collage, montage, or pile, then photographing or presenting them as art.

• Extracting art from chaos—This process could be as simple as pouring molten liquid plastic onto a swarm of insects, letting it harden and presenting the lamination of crumpled twisted exoskeletons caught in the throes of death as art, Or reaching ones hand into a bowl of alphabet soup, and reading your palm.

• Remove everything that isn’t art—Starting with a natural or manmade substance with an inner chaotic structure of varying densities such as grain, fibers, or knots as in wood, then using tools or solvents of variable strengths to chip, grind, erode, stress, eat, dissolve, etch or otherwise remove all material within a predetermined a range of density to reveal anything outside of that range in its structural formations.

• Synthetically reproducing organic or chaotic forms—extrapolating algorithms from the processes of nature and using them as formulas to build digital images that mimic natural structures which are often chaotic in appearance.

These are just a few of the ways in which aleatoric art can be produced. Finding other methods is as much the creative work of the aleatoric artist as is the art itself. In a sense the aleatoric artist is as much a scientist and an inventor as he is an artist and therein lies the appeal of this form of expression. By it’s very nature it holds the potential for discovery and innovation few other disciplines can offer. Aleatoric art is a yet uncharted terrain so vast that its complete coverage seems unlikely within any foreseeable future. How we approach this exciting challenge and our commitment to its continuation will determine our movements influence the shape of art to come.  

There are myriad ways to create aleatoric art, each offering the artist a different degree of control over the outcome. Control is what an artist normally strives for and must master his skills through practice and study to achieve. It’s often said that too much control can be detrimental to the graceful beauty of the work, especially when the artist has prioritized technique over creativity. Though one has only to view the work of Salvadore Dali or Robert Venosa, to name two, to see that control and creativity are not mutually exclusive. Still, creativity is often associated with freedom; be it freedom from rigid control; freedom from the constraints of tradition, freedom from representational form or even freedom from the limits of imagination. The human imagination, even that of the most developed and expanded mind, still has limits even if they exist only in audiences perception. But if there can be a state of unlimited freedom or infinite possibilities it would have to be defined by what is possible in the infinite universe which encompasses everything that exists, both within and beyond our perception. The objective of the aleatoric artist is to access that which goes beyond human imagination and to avail himself, and his art, of possibilities that have yet to be imagined.

Ray Cabarga

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AleatoricArt Gallery

Creepy Edward by J. Coleman Miller is an online magazine and gallery of artists who allow the laws of physics to guide their creative vision, seeking out art born of natural causes and daring to leave some things purely to chance. By developing a deeper understanding of the forces that govern our universe, these courageous innovators have discovered unique ways of collaborating with nature to produce some of the most beautiful and compelling images in the world of contemporary art.

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