Review: Petra Cortright's digital works rarely rise above convention

Review: Petra Cortright's digital works rarely rise above convention
Petra Cortright, "Enchanted Foreststrippersnopeleeasy2girls[1]," 2012, flash animation. (From Petra Cortright / Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles)

Many artists use digital technology, but Petra Cortright's exhibition at Steve Turner Contemporary is explicitly about online culture. Her prints, webcam videos and animations are assembled from lowest-common denominator imagery and tools: free screensavers and clip art; pre-set brushes and filters. But the show holds too tightly to these conventions, never rising above a slavish banality.

Cortright's "digital paintings," which are actually prints on aluminum panels, are gestural abstractions created in Photoshop over fragmented stock landscapes. They're pretty and the reflective surface of the aluminum mimics the glow of a screen, but why print them out at all? Indeed, why make them at all?


More interesting are her webcam videos. As Cortright uses any number of stock visual effects to segment, distort or obscure her face, we see her looking not at us or at the camera, but at her own image on the screen. It's the slightly off-center gaze familiar from video chats, where the other person is looking at an image of you, not at you. Cortright isn't performing for us, she's performing for herself.

Even more hermetically sealed are three works collaged from looping Internet animations. They depict female exotic dancers cavorting in lush, fantastical landscapes populated with fish and unicorns. They're snapshots of predominant Internet fantasies, from banal to pornographic, but one piece, depicting a naked black woman performing lascivious acts with a slice of watermelon, is simply offensive. Yes, such footage exists on the Internet for the taking. That doesn't mean one should.

Steve Turner Contemporary, 6026 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 931-3721, through Dec. 21. Closed Sundays and Mondays.