The Pixel As Minimalist Art

During the latter part of 2000, Tom R. Chambers began to look at the pixel within the context of Abstractionism and Minimalism. He used his self-portrait [to the left] as a testing ground to begin to equate the pixel with the works of non-objective artists like Vasily Kandinsky, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and others. They generated works to establish an abstract visual language of the sublime, pure color, geometric form, deep contemplation and metaphysical pursuit of the truth.

If you begin clicking within the outlined boxes on the self-portrait, pixels appear due to magnification of these areas via graphics software [Photoshop]. The pixels or Pixelscapes - as he calls them - conform with many of these non-objective artists' works. These Pixelscapes were somewhat of a revelation for him when compared to these nonobjective works generated 40 years before the pixel and 80 years before the Digital Revolution. It seemed that he had managed to do what Kazimir Malevich and other Suprematists (Minimalists) had done through the simple process of magnification and isolation of the pixel(s).

Kazimir Malevich, in particular, invented this new, abstract visual language that he called Suprematism - the name he gave to paintings consisting of one or more colored geometric shapes on a white field. He wrote of visualizing a state of feeling, of creating through abstract painting a sense of bliss and wonder.
Malevich's Black Square (1915) and Black Cross (1923) are seen to the right. To jump ahead a bit of his evolution with the pixel, his Pixelscapes [Third Generation] seen below are reminiscent of Malevich's works.
The above Pixelscapes are at greater magnification and isolation via filter [halftone] treatment in Photoshop. These actions begin to move the pixel towards similar considerations taken by Malevich and other early Suprematists (Minimalists). They also sought to de-mystify art, to reveal its most fundamental character, its reality, exposing its materials and processes. And they attempted to engage the viewer in an immediate, direct and unmediated experience. There was no attempt to represent an outside reality with the viewer responding to only what was in front of him/her.

To backtrack to his humble beginnings with the pixel and take a look at a few first- and second-generation Pixelscapes, these works are a bit tentative in the sense that he had just begun to explore the potential of the pixel as an abstract art form with the notion of their Minimalist genre and relationship to the early Minimalists' and Abstractionists' works. These Pixelscapes [First and Second Generations] comprise more pixels and focus on color fields and juxtapositions [seen below].

For those who may wonder how he arrived at these particular pixel combinations [seen above], the process involved exploring various photographs at extreme magnification then isolating [cropping] the color fields and juxtapositions [via Photoshop] to generate the Pixelscapes. Some of his colleagues say that they are similar to Found Art. He's okay with this. Found Art is what it is, and his Pixelscapes are what they are - Minimalist Art. J.D. Jarvis [Art Critic] states:

"In terms of Minimalism, Chambers' works seem almost elaborate, with strong patterns emerging from the basic structure that is the single pixel. Taken to the next extreme would be a sculptural arrangement of individual squares (pixels) of a single color. As if pixels have liberated themselves, through magnification, from any other context and are now present as individual entities in non-virtual space."

So this brings us to his third-generation Pixelscapes once again that are in keeping with Kazimir Malevich's works some 80 to 90 years ago, and they seem to have liberated themselves as Minimalist Art in their own right. And sometimes he feels that there's no need to look any further than the pixel because it doesn't pretend to be anything else other than what it is - truth. This most basic component of any computer graphic, which stands for picture element, corresponds to the smallest thing that can be drawn on a computer screen. It's also mathematical in the sense that it can be represented by 1 bit, a 1 if the pixel is black, or a 0 if the pixel is white. So Malevich, the Russian Suprematist whose work was a precursor to Minimalism, and those Minimalists who followed later would probably have had great appreciation for this basic and mathematical component - the pixel.

His fourth-generation Pixelscapes are only three in number due to a decrease in available time to pursue the pixel as Minimalist Art, and they delve into the realm of the sublime. Again, he arrived at these particular pixel combinations [seen below] by exploring various photographs at extreme magnification then isolating [cropping] the color fields and juxtapositions [via Photoshop] to generate the Pixelscapes.

His fifth-generation Pixelscapes are compounded versions of second-generation Pixelscapes through the use of noise and texture filters in Photoshop. This compounded effect or the process of adding pixels on top of pixels - and at various sizes - enhances the sublimity, and it also brings in other interpretations or connotations such as plurality, for example the coexistence of several worlds. These Pixelscapes are seen below. Click on them to show larger versions for more detail, then click on the larger versions to show their scan derivatives which he calls Pscans. These Pscans use the lens applet to move the Minimal Art towards Kinetic Abstraction. And if you click on the moving lens and move it around manually, you can explore the Pixelscapes in great detail. And as you look through the lens, you're glimpsing a Minimalist World - in the same sense astronomers glimpse through their telescopes to see another Minimalist World: the Universe.
Chambers' current work with the pixel - sixth-generation Pixelscapes under the namesake of The Primordial Pixel - focuses on the glitched portions of images that are then magnified.

These Pixelscapes are similar to Color Field painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. This movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favor of an overall consistency of form and process. In Color Field painting, color is freed from objective context, and it becomes the subject in itself ("Themes in American Art: Abstraction." National Gallery of Art, Web, May 9, 2010).

Color Field painting emerged out of the attempts of several artists to devise a modern, mythic art. Seeking to connect with the primordial emotions locked in ancient myths, rather than the symbols themselves, they sought a new style that would do away with any suggestion of illustration ( Jackson Pollock, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt and Arshile Gorky (in his last works) are among the prominent abstract expressionist painters identified as being connected to Color Field painting in the 1950s and 1960s ("Smithsonian Museum Exhibits Color Field Painting", December 7, 2008).

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, young artists began to break away stylistically from Abstract Expressionism experimenting with new ways of making pictures and new ways of handling paint and color. In the early 1960s, several and various new movements in abstract painting were related to each other. Some of the new styles and movements that appeared in the early 1960s as responses to Abstract Expressionism were called: Washington Color School, Hard-edge painting, Geometric Abstraction, Minimalism, and Color Field ("Smithsonian Museum Exhibits Color Field Painting", December 7, 2008).

Three examples from "The Primordial Pixel" follow:

On July 14, 2004 in Vienna, Austria, artist, Claude Bossett, unveiled a "Tribute to the Pixel" for its 50th Birthday, titled Pixel. The tribute took the form of an acrylic painted 60 cm x 60 cm blue square on a 100 cm x 140 cm canvas. It is a portrait of a magnified pixel. This is mentioned because his process of painting the large blue square on a larger, white canvas to represent a pixel tends to come full-circle with the early Minimalists doing essentially the same before the pixel and the Digital Revolution. Chambers continues on course with his Pixelscapes.

Go to Chambers' My Dear Malevich, a homage to Kazimir Malevich using Pixelscapes found within a photo of this Suprematist [Ukranian-born artist, 1878-1935] via magnification, filter treatment [halftone] and isolation of the pixel(s).


Pixelscapes: Fifth Generation, aniGma-3, The 3rd Novosibirsk International Festival of Digital Imaging & Animation (group show), Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirsk, Russia, April 6 - May 15, 2006.

Pixelscapes: First and Second Generations (group show), aniGma-2, The 2d Novosibirsk International Festival of Digital Imaging & Animation, Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirsk, Russia, April - May, 2005 .

Pixelscapes: First and Second Generations (group show), Third Novosibirsk International Contemporary Graphic Biennial 2003, State Picture Gallery, Novosibirsk, Russia, September - November, 2003.

Click on poster image to view/download full version (20"X30", 300dpi) for printing:

Pixelscapes: First and Second Generations

Pixelscapes: Third Generation

Pixelscapes: Fourth Generation

Pixelscapes: Fifth Generation

Pixelscapes: Sixth Generation (The Primordial Pixel)



My Dear Malevich

Other projects involving Kazimir Malevich's "Black Square": Black Square Interpretations