By Rachel Galvin
He has been called the “Father of Digital Art.” Every swirl, flourish and shape of his artwork is looked upon with great interest. Every colorful combination on his digital palette is studied. After all, he developed an artistic genre and has worked with countless celebrities. He even helped Pop Art superstar Andy Warhol learn the new media. And this internationally-known artist is right here in our own backyard.
Laurence Gartel lives in Boca Raton. His newest canvas … cars … have been seen in more car shows and festivals than can be named, including the Downtown Drive car show in Mizner Park. He was recently part of Art Fort Lauderdale, a new art fair, and can be seen in his online TV show on VIP Television. He utilized his unique style for the official artwork for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, a poster for Britney Spears and much more. He currently has an exhibit showing in Italy, showcasing both his work and Warhol’s. Gartel took time to talk with The Observer about his life and art.
“I was an artist from birth,” he began. “My first memory is crawling out of my crib and outlining my sleeping mother with red lipstick. I drew around her as she slept … up the wall and around the bed sheets.”
His artistic curiosity was nurtured by an artistic family. His father was a painting contractor in New York City with a strong passion for music. His mother, whom he classifies as “a piece of work” used knowledge and language as her medium. One of his aunts was an Off-Broadway actress, with children who did jewelry design, photography and worked for folk festivals; another aunt who was a clothing and accessory designer, with children involved in modern dance.
He met Andy Warhol at Studio 54.
“Everyone who was anyone could congregate there,” he said. “It was a magnet for artists of all skills: Truman Capote, Diana Vreeland, Halston, Mick Jagger … the list went on. It was there that I struck up a conversation with Warhol about the potentials of Computer Art. He invited me to his studio to help him learn the Amiga Computer. He was very shy and I showed him the toolbox and how to use the video camera to input images into the system.”
In the ’80s, Gartel showed off his “Moz Ocean” piece, a Polaroid SX-70 mural consisting of 324 individual prints, at PS1 in Long Island City and the Long Beach Museum of California. But it was the creation of the First Digital Art Cover for Forbes Magazine in 1989 that really got him attention. The same year, he released his book, Laurence M. Gartel: A Cybernetic Romance, and had a museum show called Laurence Gartel: Nuvo Japonica at the Joan Whitney Payson Gallery at Westbrook College in Portland, Maine.
“On this momentous occasion, I replaced Van Gogh’s ‘Irises,’ which was previously sold at auction for $53 million dollars. Just imagine hanging your work on the very same wall where this painting was on view for years – What an incredible thrill as an artist (a digital artist at that),” he said.
Among his favorite projects are creating the first Solar Powered Satellite Art Truck in Hamburg, Germany and driving it through five countries, arriving in Monte Carlo as the Official Artist of the Monaco International Film Festival. He also created the art for the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) launch at Kennedy Space Center, a Dodge Viper Art Car for the Los Angeles Street Art Fair, and was the visionary for the 3D Print Show in Santa Clara. Another great moment was being asked to be the keynote speaker at the First Pan Pacific Conference in Melbourne, Australia in 1985. Recently, he was the featured artist of the Oslo Motor Show in Norway creating a BMW Art Car LIVE in front of 40,000 people. He just created a collection of unique cigar boxes filled with Cuban seed cigars from JRE Tobacco Farms in Honduras. It was his first “painting” commission in traditional media since 1973.
He first created his art cars in 2010 when TESLA Electric Car Company came to him and asked him to produce an art car that they could showcase during Art Basel Miami Beach that year.
“I held an event at Nikki Beach to unveil the car, as well as having a fashion show of Gartel clothing – some of the pieces matching the vehicle. It was over the top outrageous and the car went viral on the Internet to over 25,000 websites. Some of these sites can still be found on the Internet.”
He is commissioned to wrap vehicles. He utilizes his own custom software, something that was created for him when he went to India to make a Bollywood film/ music video. In addition, he uses antiquated 3D programs that are no longer available, making the images that much more unique.
“What’s old is new, so people have never seen such kind of imagery,” he explained.
He is embracing new technology as well.
“I started doing 3D Printing in 2008 for a private client who thought it would be a great challenge, and it was! It took at least 12 people and about a year to get the whole thing right. I went $75,000 over budget as well, which was not pleasant, but, back in the beginning days of this new medium, it was painstaking. The final ‘sculpture’ (now called a ‘3D-Print’ because there is no chiseling to be a sculpture) is an 18 in. object in red plastic material. I consider it a great triumph and innovation in art,” he said.
He added, “I have used every new piece of hardware and software along the way. I implemented new ways of working equipment that the manufacturers never thought of. Innovation comes from ‘trial and error,’ and it is usually the errors that make for greatness!”
Gartel has traveled the world, but enjoys living in Florida. He moved here from New York after being showcased in a retrospective show at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach in 1991.
“I was treated so well that I decided to move here with my family. I wanted to give my children a better life than the hustle and bustle of New York City,” he said.
For more information on this artistic pioneer, visit www.gartelart.com.