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What on Earth Are We Supposed to Do With the Outrageous Art of CumWizard69420? – artnet News



A painter named CumWizard69420 is a modest sensation right now. Rising from almost nowhere, the colorfully named character is currently attracting some media heat with a painting show at Cheim & Read in Chelsea. If I were a struggling figurative painter, I might be thinking of changing my name to something like IEatPoops! or MilfManiac666 right about now.

I’m left scratching my head wondering what the appearance of CumWizard on the scene says about this chaotic and transitional time in art.

Here’s what you see in the gallery: The paintings, which he churns out, are modest in size and done in a deskilled, cartoony, and abject style, an unlikely fusion of Grandma Moses and the painting output of Jim Carrey. They are not the worst paintings ever, while still preserving the look of being a joke about painting.

Installation view of CumWizard69420, "The Americans" at Cheim & Read

Installation view of CumWizard69420, “The Americans” at Cheim & Read. Photo by Ben Davis.

As for subject matter: There’s a preppy, smiling portrait of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and one that renders a widely circulated photo of his consort Ghislaine Maxwell giving Epstein a foot massage. There’s Woody Allen. There’s a ghastly Donald Trump. There’s Kanye West in a red MAGA hat.

There’s an unflattering Caitlyn Jenner titled The Beautiful Caitlyn Jenner. There’s a picture of Ellen Degeneres with monstrously bloodshot eyes.

CumWizard69420, Ellen Come and See Face

CumWizard69420, Ellen Come and See Face (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.

This last I thought was about the talk show host’s fall from grace, but realize it is a riff on a meme that takes a clip of her crying about the police murder of Breonna Taylor and re-captions it “When you get so high, you start getting scared.”

As for the non-celebs, the images of them convey universal repulsion. The show is called “The Americans,” channeling Robert Frank’s ‘50s photo series surveying the alienation of U.S. life. CumWizard takes the “portrait of a nation” idea in a particularly curdled, irony-poisoned direction.

CumWizard69420, Mother and Child

CumWizard69420, Mother and Child (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.

There’s a mother breast-feeding her baby while shooting heroin; a painting of an elderly man with a walker whose pants have fallen down, showing his butt crack; a picture drawn from a widely ridiculed clip of a woman howling in anguish when Trump was inaugurated—sometimes called “Luke Crywalker” and often used as a meme to mock “snowflake liberals.”

There are a bunch of canvasses of naked, obese women rendered as lumpy, misshapen grotesques. One, recumbent on a red background, shows her with mouth open and eyes closed in ecstasy as she eats Crisco from a bucket. It’s called Girl’s Gotta Eat.

CumWizard69420, Girl's Gotta Eat

CumWizard69420, Girl’s Gotta Eat (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.

The artist told my colleague Annie Armstrong that his real name is Michael Clark. “CumWizard69420” was just the first name he thought of when he had to generate an online handle. He’s in his mid-20s, and was an UberEats driver until his painting became an object of fascination on Instagram after he started posting his internet-fried output during the pandemic. As influences, he lists the comedy podcast Cum Town—indeed, he began his art career by posting his paintings in the Cum Town subreddit—as well as artists such as Katherine Bradford, Keith Boadwee, and Johnny Ryan. But he’s not so into contemporary art.

It is not clear to me whether Cheim & Read knows what it has on its hands here. The show press release states: “these images, which are often unnerving and frequently grotesque, are also generously human, laced with affection and humor.” It then invokes a line from a 1995 review of Diane Arbus by Hilton Als (because “The Americans” is the counterpoint to a Arbus show, running concurrently at the gallery), suggesting that CumWizard’s paintings “don’t feel exploitative in the least, because they are filled with love and discipline.”

It’s hard to be objectively wrong when writing about art, but that is objectively wrong.

CumWizard69420, Portrait of Ghislaine Maxwell

CumWizard69420, Portrait of Ghislaine Maxwell (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.

I think it’s fair to say that the images are exercises in the ironic dehumanization that comes from viewing humanity mainly through the lens of the internet circus. “I get my inspiration from Google, Bing, and social media,” CumWizard told Armstrong. His goal is just “to be funny online and to get a reaction out of people, really,” he told the Contain podcast.

I get why their South Park-ish, everyone-sucks vibe rises to the top of the Instagram Discover Feed (where Cheim found it). Cranking up the outrage just to the edge of violating some standard that gets you banned is one way to get attention—and CumWizard’s sensibilities have gotten him banned several times, at least once for a sexually explicit painting of singer James Brown (whether it was the one of Brown on his knees fellating a bunch of guys, called I Feel Good, or the one of Brown being sodomized, called Get Up Offa That Thing and Fuck my Tight Lil Butthole, I’m not quite clear).

Screenshot of CumWizard69420's personal website

Screenshot of CumWizard69420’s personal website.

On his website, CumWizard introduces himself with a photo of a Black teenager with Down Syndrome, hunched over a canvas. Image search tells me that the image is of a real person, though probably not the real CumWizard: His name is Rahmel, and the picture is from a support group for kids with Down Syndrome in Evansville, Indiana, circa 2013.

What is CumWizard’s message of “love and discipline” here? Based on his interviews and painting output, I know I think what CumWizard is mainly trying to pick the most offensive possible image to represent himself.

“The Americans” is a “vibe shift” painting show. Seeing this kind of material at a Chelsea gallery would have been unthinkable for most of the last six years, which were all about social justice rhetoric and symbolic reckoning. Trump, after all, proved that the Pepe the Frog vote could be an engine for actual reaction—so the mainstream of art and media became about very clear-cut moralizing.

Installation view of CumWizard69420, "The Americans" at Cheim & Read.

Installation view of CumWizard69420, “The Americans” at Cheim & Read. Photo by Ben Davis.

But over time the hyper-moralistic discourse of “Pop Culture’s Great Awokening”—as Molly Fischer described it, writing of the precious, PSA-quality vibe of mainstream culture in this period—has started to come apart on its own contradictions.

Corporations have seized en masse on social justice as a trend to woke-wash affluent consumption (see: Brooklinen’s “revolution starts between the sheets” campaign) leading observers to associate it with cynical marketing. The punishing social-media vigilanteism of the last years has created a situation where no one believes anyone else’s social-justice rhetoric, since it feels compelled (the social scientists call this “informational contamination”). Constant outrage over trivial matters has trivialized outrage (though maybe I need to stress: There are still a lot of very serious things that actually deserve outrage!)

I won’t go into all the signs that the social-justice consensus is falling apart. One of the big harbingers of the end of the “woke” moment has been the rise of New York’s “downtown reactionary” scene—“boredom with performative outrage and disdain for overbearingly earnest didacticism” among the cool kids, as Dean Kissick writes. I think that its coherence and influence is way overstated by thirsty trend-spotters. I also agree with Kissick that this sensibility doesn’t necessarily represent “opposition to progressive values”—though there are definitely actual reactionaries going fishing in those waters as well.

CumWizard69420, A Study of Jeffrey Epstein (2022

CumWizard69420, A Study of Jeffrey Epstein (2022). Photo by Ben Davis.

But the depth of a subculture is determined by what it is defining itself against. The reigning virtue-signal-y vibe of the #Resistance era was so shallow, indiscriminate, and brittle that you didn’t have to do too much in this time period to seem like you were part of some taboo intellectual subculture. You could get a lot of mileage, and attract a lot of attention, just by being irreverent about liberal pieties. And a number of trend-conscious cultural operators replaced “triggering the libs” with any sort of creative personality or conviction.

If the mainstream vibe does truly shift, and the dominant culture stops being so earnest and irony-averse denying the anti-woke posturing its foil, I’m guessing that most of the jokes produced in this discursive hot house won’t be that funny, and most of the art won’t seem that interesting.

Dealer John Cheim told my colleague Annie Armstrong that what interested him in CumWizard was his “brazen subject matter and the very clear and direct painting method.” Well, I’ve been through the CumWizard archive, and I will agree that amid all the many, many paintings of celebrities in blackface, 9/11-themed comedy, and scat porn there are flashes of memorably unhinged comedy (e.g. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Trying to Be Sneaky But He Shits Himself). There are even semi-tender moments, usually drawn from movies he’s watched.

But is “brazen subject matter” the way to refer to CumWizard’s canvas of a screaming woman being gang raped by koala bears? Or the one where a cartoon Native American man is shown with a talking balloon stating “I can hear the buffalo? They are calling the N word”? Or No Ticky No Laundry, rendering Jack Nicholson’s mob boss character from The Departed as a bucktoothed Chinese caricature? Or Down Syndrome Man Attempts Suicide With a Banana? Or Napalm Girl With Big Tits? Or The Trans Kids Are Coming Up From Behind?

I hate “performative outrage” too. But for the most part, all this is just kinda puerile. The joke is just, here’s a thing that’s offensive… and I’m saying it!

This is a back-gallery show, with paintings priced at a few thousand each. The truth is that neither I nor, indeed, the Wizard himself (according to what he said to Armstrong) think that he is about to rocket to the heights of fame and success. It’s hard to square respectability with a sensibility whose near total identity is invested in making “respectable” people pissed off. There’s not going to be a CumWizard AmEx card the way there are Kehinde Wiley and Julie Mehretu AmEx cards.

The fact that the gallery deliberately mis-recognizes such fully baked nihilism as impish humanism tells me that the official art discourse is not really ready, or able, to assimilate this material. And yet, nevertheless, here’s CumWizard, in Chelsea. So you can take “The Americans” as a small sign that the “LOL nothing matters” mindset is far more pervasive than people are able to say out loud. That reality sits in the gallery like a stain on someone’s pants that everyone at the party is too polite to point out.

CumWizard69420, “The Americans,” is on view at Cheim & Read, through March 18, 2023.

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The Thief Collector review – the ordinary married couple behind a massive art heist – The Guardian



It was a brazen case of daylight robbery. In 1985, a couple walked into an art gallery on the campus of the University of Arizona and left 15 minutes later with a rolled-up Willem de Kooning shoved up the man’s jacket. In 2017, the painting was finally recovered – not by the FBI, but by a trio of house clearance guys in New Mexico. It had been hanging for 30 years on the bedroom wall of retired teachers Rita and Jerry Alter.

How an ordinary couple like the Alters pulled off one of the biggest art heists of the 20th century is told in this mostly entertaining documentary. You can imagine the story being turned into a podcast and it’s perhaps stretched a little thin for a full-length documentary. (Did we really need an interview with the couple’s nephew’s son?) The weak link is the film’s dramatisation of the theft: a tongue-in-cheek pastiche that feels a bit glib as questions about the Alters’ motivations deepen and darken. Still, the film offers a fascinating glimpse into the mystery of other people, especially other people’s marriages. Friends and family still look dazed that the Alters – Rita and Jerry! – were behind the theft.

The unlikely heroes of the story are a trio of honest-as-they-come house clearance men who bought the De Kooning along with the contents of Jerry and Rita’s house after they died. When a customer offered them $200,000 for the painting, they did a bit of Googling; after realising it could be the missing artwork (Woman-Ochre, now worth around $160m), they were straight on the phone to the gallery in Arizona to return it, with no question of making a dime for themselves.


The three men are brilliant interviewees, warm and thoroughly decent; their experience in rooting through other people’s homes and lives has clearly given them the kind of insight that would make them great detectives, too. And if nothing else, this documentary ought to give someone working in television the idea of making a detective series about house clearance experts.

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The Art of Gardening — New Patio Plants – CFJC Today Kamloops




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Is AI art the new frontier or just another way to rip artists off? Watch episode 1 of digi-Art now –



AI: Artificial Intelligence

2 days ago

Duration 14:15


Artificial Intelligence: it thinks like us, writes like us – but can it create art like us? Dive into the latest buzz to unpack if AI is a helpful collaborator or just thieving competition.

CBC Arts’ new series digi-Art looks to the horizon to see what’s possible with tech and art — charting a course led by creatives and innovators towards new worlds and ways of creating.

The infinite monkey theorem posits that if a countless number of monkeys were assembled in front of a limitless number of typewriters, they would eventually create writing as revered and dense as the works of William Shakespeare. 

The theorem feels unimaginable and creative works are so often seen as intentional — great writing and designs can’t just be shaped from nothing. But recent trends in AI seem set to transform how the creation of art is viewed in culture. 

AI art has been all over the Internet, and even winning awards, and it’s leading some visual artists to worry about their roles in the future. 

Text-to-image systems, like DALL-E 2, have been enabling anyone to create striking visual works with just a few words. People can now truly create something from almost nothing. But, this process isn’t as random as it seems.

Dr. Alexis Morris is the tier two research chair in the Internet of Things at OCAD University. He told digi-Art host Taelor Lewis-Joseph about a process called “classification” — the process by which a machine can turn language to a thing, and then ultimately an image. 

An AI generated image of cats in "cyberpunk" outfits in neon convenience stores buying milk.
AI generated art from Dall-E using the prompt “cyberpunk cats in cyberpunk hats buying milk in a punk store” from Episode 1 of digi-Art. (CBC Arts)

“You show the machine an image of a cat, but it doesn’t know what a cat is,” Morris says. “You give it lots of pictures of cats and after a time, it starts to learn that cats are often a little fuzzy and have pointed ears.” 

“As you give it more and more pictures, the machine figures out more and more features.” 

Through being exposed to countless images, AI can begin to generate sometimes startlingly realistic images from almost nothing.

Intelligence stealing art

While AI technology is groundbreaking, not all creatives are excited by its prospects in the art world. 

Mark Gagne is a multimedia artist and head of Mindmelt Studio. He’s no stranger to using technology in his art — Gagne will often mix together illustrations and photography in his pieces.

But he has grown frustrated with what he views as AI’s continued encroachment on original pieces of art. 

“These AI programs are scraping artwork off the internet, including my own, and Frankensteining them into a piece of artwork,” Gagne says. “It really upset me that I was one of those artists that got scraped up by the AI apps.”

Two pieces of art of imaginary creatures. On the left a creature with horns looks at a cartoon snail. On the right a smiling blue mushroom is surrounded by two smaller smiling horned creatures.
Non-AI artwork made by Mark Gagne from his ‘Guardian Sprites’ series. Gagne has had his art style unknowingly used in AI algorithms. (Mark Gagne)

Gagne’s frustration with AI platforms has been increased by the fact that he considers his work to be very personal to him. His work often explores topics like mental health. 

“People … [identified] with the imagery that I was putting out and it really opened dialogue with a lot of people,” he says. “They found that my art page was a safe space for them to express that.” 

What started as personal expression has now been “regurgitated” by AI platforms, Gagne argues. “It’s kind of like when somebody breaks into your home and takes off with your television or your PlayStation or something,” he says.

“I mean, the technology’s amazing, but what’s wrong with these companies coming to the artists and saying, ‘We’d like to work with you?'”

Taking advantage of AI

While some artists are worried about AI, some are embracing it. Waxhead is an artist who began in a more analogue medium — street art. 

But now, Waxhead said that AI is taking an active role in his creations. In fact, AI has helped to inform the art he creates in the physical world. 

“I’m using AI in a wide variety of ways as a tool to create seamless textures for 3D models, to create reference material for my murals, to create references for paintings,” he says. “It just allowed me to be creative and to learn and renew a love for learning.”

Waxhead’s experiments with AI have allowed him to manipulate some of his favourite styles of art. He says that AI allows styles of art to be reiterated. 

“I’m starting to build models that are referencing my art, so I’m using hundreds and hundreds of photographs of years and years and years of my work to make something that’s my style, that’s Waxhead, but also created by AI,” he says. 

While he acknowledges the problems other artists have had with their art being scooped up by AI platforms, he also thinks that this cycle is reflective of art more broadly. 

“I think humans have always used other artwork as references and we’re all taking our inspirations from somewhere,” he says. 

“Things are changing extremely fast … I’m excited about the future, using AI, using text prompts. What concerns me is who controls these models.” 

“I think more open-source AI models that are controlled by the public, in terms of art and creativity, are gonna have vastly more amazing applications in general.”

CBC Arts’ new series digi-Art looks to the horizon to see what’s possible with tech and art — charting a course led by creatives and innovators towards new worlds and ways of creating.

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