mobile digital art book review by michael maersch


I so wanted to hate this book from the moment it arrived in the mail – mostly because I cherish working on my twin 20” screens here at the studio. But also, as I began making my way through the work presented here, so much of it simply looked like doodling! (Please, I DO understand and appreciate nearly all forms of creative expression whether it is considered “art” or not.)

Not so much because of the work presented throughout this book – though there are a handful of genuinely talented, wonderfully innovative artists whose work Mr. Leibowitz has filled the pages; but because of how he explains the relevance of working on an iPhone or iPad, experimenting with what appears to be engaging, pixel-bending apps I found myself taking an altogether different view of the whole shebang in the end.

Leibowitz is a trés smart guy who has given the whole notion of working with this new technology for artists to respond to their world, events they encounter and creative sparks firing in their heads with almost instant gratification A LOT of thought. He quite reasonably explains how the use of phones and tablets fit into a historical context as he celebrates this medium of expression.

I have colleagues who never miss the opportunity to thumb their noses at digital cameras, Photoshop and (God forbid) the use of related plugin applications which enhance and transform photographs into quite sophisticated interpretations of an original when used judiciously instead of by simply selecting a one-touch filter solution. This highfalutin attitude – their insistence that ONLY “silver gelatin” images can be considered “Art” – has long been a burr on my backside.

Reading Mr. Leibowitz’s well considered essays about iPhone/iPad art had me realize my Big Screen-Big Workstation chauvinism is equally misplaced. There was a time, after all, when photographs were considered nothing more than a hat trick curiosity, then at best a utilitarian method for recording an event with greater accuracy than the pencil sketches of a court reporter. This book celebrates a “new” way for creative folks to generate their vision and allow us all the opportunity to view their work in a “virtual” gallery (online). How liberating is that?

The publisher, Focal Press through Taylor & Francis, does its usual wonderful job in reproducing images, its layout (presentation) and production. My only complaint is that many of the images here, because they were originally created on a phone then “up-res’ed” for printed publication, quite “fall apart” and then lose much of their original detail and impact because of the raggedy “jaggies” that are part and parcel of this conversion process. I guess some things are best shared on a smart(?)phone…

A great read, some truly interesting images AND printed links one can painstakingly type into a web browser so that the artists' images come to life in a format they were spawned-from and intended to be viewed in. For anyone really committed to “alternative imaging processes”.