Justin Batten and Zach Kinkade: Resolution

B.F.A. thesis students Justin Batten (B.F.A. '13) and Zach Kinkade (B.F.A. '13) present their new work.

Justin Batten Artist Statement

Born in Brazil and raised in New York City within a circle of artists, Justin Batten has always been inspired and driven by the culture and vibe of the urban environment and people. As an adopted Afro-Brazilian, Batten encountered the culture of Hip Hop and found deep connection to the artists within its culture. Not more than 20 years ago, born out of the Bronx, Hip Hop culture was exploding. Art was splattered across just about any surface from trains to buildings, and there was an urban culture in which creative expression reigned. People wanted fame and to be respected for their creations, and as a result people turned to each other, as well as themselves as a means for self-exploration, and as a source of awe. The height of individual expression and respect for humanities creative abilities are deeply intertwined within the threads and concepts driving my works.

In Hip Hop, the process of creating and claiming a new title or name for oneself is mirrored in the figural mixed media collages that Batten continues to create and explore. Much of the work, through process, symbolically represents the amalgamation and sampling of affirmations, mantras, and slogans from contemporary black culture and Hip Hop that is used by individuals while crafting their character. Through mediums from sources ancient and contemporary, Batten intends to forge a new visual language that collages and layers together to solidify and portray the concept of individuality.

The empirical figures and the surrounding text within his works represent a physical manifestation of the thoughts and feelings of the represented person. Through his digital prints Batten weaves graffiti and text with image and imagination to fortify and carve the depiction of the individual into immorality. The concept of self creation and using your body or character as a vehicle for leaving your mark on the world is not new, and statues and paintings and texts of such humans from earth are still with us today. Batten's work, both symbolically and aggressively, represents and comments on the creation of identity, style, and individuality within the urban environment.

Zach Kinkade Artist Statement

As we head further into the 21st century, technological interfaces are becoming increasingly present in our daily routines. The computer has become a virtual multi-functional space for work, play, storage, economic exchange, and social interaction. Our dependence on the computer only seems to grow with each passing day. The internet seems to be at the center of a paradigm shift in social, cultural, and economic interaction, because of its ability to connect the world's people, cultures, and histories, into one convenient and accessible space. Of course this is both a blessing and a curse as a compromise within these fast paced, compressed, and ephemeral systems have emerged. While the internet is certainly beneficial in making our world instantly accessible, it has compressed and detached our level of engagement with the world.

The tension between desire of accessibility and the sacrifice of engagement, becomes a key concern when considering the how much time we should spend online. In order to deal with his own increasing dependence to the computer, Kinkade became interested in using painting as a way to interact with this virtual space, by extracting what he finds online and mediating it through a slower and more intimate medium. 

In relation to screen culture, another major interest of mine is the medium of painting. Painting has always cast an aura of intrigue and "hand-madeness" that has run counter to "machine made" era which we live in now. Like the computer screen, a painting is no more than a 2-dimensional abstraction of our reality; instead of bits and pixels, brushstrokes and pigments cover the canvas to create a mere representation of the outside world. The two surfaces use the same pictorial format with starkly different effects and methods of looking. What becomes an interesting area of study for me is the intersection between painting and the screen, and negotiating the characteristics of both subjects to create work that comments on his doubts, concerns, and praises in both these areas

For his thesis show, Kinkade is exploring the subject matters of the desktop background and search engine interfaces through painting. Search engines are interesting to me because they are a great informational resource but also compress and fragmentizes the information we search for. Search engines don't just give us one answer but bombard us with many incomplete or condense parts which we must simultaneously process. The way in which we see is changed to flicker through multiple images rather than concentrating on the singular image. Desktop background images try to compensate this busy environment by being the seductive and immovable image that acts as the "home" screen of the computer. Yet through the use of the search engine, these images become incredibly formulaic, sterile, banal, through the sheer amount of repetition that we see these images in. His interest in this project is using the multiplicity of digital layouts with the aesthetics of desktop backgrounds as paintings to create a level of engagement with these spaces that we could not do through the computer screen alone. Through mediating these subject matters through painting, he tries to negotiate an experiential relationship between navigating a screen and viewing a painting while additionally exploring the contextual emptiness of desktop backgrounds with the critical engagement that art must evoke.