There exists a complex tangle of trajectories between art, culture and technology. At the center of this knot lies the authenticity of our sensory experience, especially our visual perception. Mechanically produced images often seem more simulated than a hand-rendered image. Although an automated process does not make an image illegitimate, it can unintentionally cause us to invest less time and effort to visually digest it. Other variables, such as the degree at which the image has been mechanically manipulated, if the image seems mass produced, and whether it is presented as high art, also contribute to our conclusive visual judgements of that image.
Although some artists openly define their work as high-tech reproduction, and others react against it, there are those who choose to imitate it. By occupying a middle ground, these artists broaden our involvement as viewers by causing us to more deeply ponder the purpose behind the work and question the accuracy of our interpretations. This has created a sort of playful deception between art and audience and has propelled a breakdown between what it means by truly seeing a work of art versus merely looking at a work of art.
Works by artist and University of Florida professor Richard Heipp occupy the gray area between the manually produced painting and the digitally reproduced image. They therefore position the viewer at the crossroads of looking and seeing. Heipp describes his paintings as photocentric; they are not intended to be merely based on mechanically produced images, but are instead air-brushed simulations of photographs and scanned objects. At first, these hyperrealistic paintings appear mechanically reproduced, but transform upon closer inspection. They perpetuate that deception between art and audience, pierce the veneer of first impressions, and force us to pause for a new and unexpected interpretation.
Double-Vision: Photocentric Paintings by Richard Heipp, 1975-2018 is the artist’s first major retrospective exhibition. Throughout his career, which includes more than 35 years at the University of Florida and countless exhibitions, Heipp has conditioned and perfected the careful manual production of his work and the philosophical concept behind it. To see is to know. To look is not enough.