Cody Choi
ART SG 2024 | Booth FC19

Cody Choi
Database Painting Animal Totem 231111
Mixed media on canvas
120 x 120 cm

Long before the mainstream media focused as intensively as it currently does on the subject of artificial intelligence, and long before it flooded the art world, Cody Choi had been exploring digital data and algorithmic processes as the basis for art. He had been researching concepts of data creation and digitization of masterpieces from 1997 to 1998 and was firmly convinced that digital data would replace imagination as a resource for creativity in the 21st century and that the algorithmically initiated, autonomous growth of data would replace the creative act of artists.

Database Painting Animal Totem 231112, 2023
Mixed media on canvas, 120 x 120 cm

Choi’s work on his so-called Database Paintings began in 1998 with a digital image that his kindergarten-age son Joy drew using a computer drawing program. Choi observed how his son was not learning to draw with pens on paper, but rather with a computer mouse on a computer screen. In light of his theoretical reflections on the subject, his observation of the influence of digital technologies on children’s learning behavior and creative development was the impetus for his own artistic exploration of digital data and algorithmic processes.

However, his son’s digital drawings were not only the basis, the intellectual inspiration for Choi’s “data-based paintings” in a figurative sense, but also in the literal sense.

Database Painting Animal Totem B#31, 2023
Mixed media on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

More than 10 years before Bitcoin was introduced, Choi developed algorithms similar to blockchain technology in terms of chain reactions. He exported his son’s digital drawings – pictures of cats and dogs – magnified and split the data, then ran his algorithms over them. Thus, the drawings were subjected to “smart layering”, where they were overlaid from 400 to thousands of times. In this process – based on the original drawings – new images developed continuously and automatically, each based on the previous one. Choi stored these images at the time. Today, he uses selected images to create Database Paintings, a genre he initiated. The digital images are UV printed on canvases and then partially painted on with acrylic – thus transferring them from the status of being more or less “digital” into the analog world. With the Database Paintings Choi creates a hybrid: traditional painting meets digital technologies and printing techniques.

Database Painting Animal Totem 231110, 2023
Mixed media on canvas, 150 x 120 cm

From the beginning of his artistic career, Cody Choi has explored the relationship between East and West. This interest is rooted in his biography: he emigrated from South Korea to Los Angeles in his early 20s.

His interest in digital culture is therefore a continuation of his exploration of transculturalism.

Cody Choi studied art at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He lived in New York in the mid-1990s; with his 1996 exhibition The Thinker at Deitch Projects in New York, he was one of the first Korean artists to locate himself in a globally connected world. From 2015 to 2017, he had a retrospective traveling exhibition at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Marseille, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, and Malaga University, curated by British art historian John C. Welchman and others. In 2017, Choi was one of the two artists representing South Korea in Venice at the Biennale. He lives in Seoul since 2003, where he holds a professorship. His publications include Topography of 20th Century Culture (2006) and Topography of Contemporary Culture (2010), which critically examine contemporary society and culture.

Also on view at ART SG 2024