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Duplication...is primarily a concept rather than a physical process....

After completing my Topology project (Chapter 7), which examined the subject of classic western art through digital technology, I began to think about modern and contemporary art as my next subject.  It seemed to be a natural progression at that time.  However, I was unsure if extending the concept was feasible.  Initially, a continuation of the same approach—using digital technology as a vehicle for examining contemporary art—did not seem ideal.  But, after some consideration this changed.  I realized that if perceiving the full spectrum of art history and culture was my goal, then the effectiveness of one single segment alone may not matter.  I decided that it was more important to progress, rather than focusing on the result beforehand.  Since then I began this project, Duplication/American Original, which is Chapter 9 in my ongoing Topology of Art series.

The 20th Century, of which I was a part, was a transformative period of social, cultural and technological shifts.  Art was an element of the period’s transformations, and the art of the 20th Century reflects its defining characteristics of mass production, mass communication, and mass (popular) culture.  These phenomena, primarily American, ultimately shaped the world’s societies, and regardless of ideological preferences, the fact is that the 20th Century was largely shaped by American culture. 

In my view, contemporary American art was founded upon certain historical facts:  In the early part of the 20th Century, American art was initially given a “conceptual seed” by Duchamp, and later, a “visual seed” by Mondrian.  In the ground of mass production, the American art community nurtured these two seeds, and created a new kind of art.  Certainly, to the rest of the world, this artwork looks distinctly “American.”

When I began this project, I tried to figure out what could be the most “American” of contemporary artwork and spontaneously, a few came to my mind.  One was Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl of 1963, one of his most important works and a work that is significant in the history of American art.  In the context of my project, Drowning Girl interested me particularly because of its reference to Japanese art.  That is, to The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (circa 1829-1832), by ukiyo-e master Katsushika Hokusai.

When I recognized that Lichtenstein had appropriated Hokusai’s Great Wave something clicked, and I realized that exploring American contemporary art through ukiyo-e could work.  At same time, I found interesting connections among American art, European art and Japanese art in Lichtenstein’s work, and I recognized a pattern of interwoven relationships in the art media...  

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