Dan Gluibizzi and the World Wide Archive

Combing Tumblr for inspirational sources, painter Dan Gluibizzi pairs scenes of friends, porn, swingers, and bongs to form groupings of perfect strangers in his watercolor compositions. In his show "Between Friends" at the Kopeikin Gallery, Gluibizzi explores and questions the social media bonds and the ties of voyeuristic “friendship” in this digital age. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

Dan Gluibizzi | Story Sisters, 2014
, 33" x 40," Watercolor on Paper. Courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery.

Dan Gluibizzi |
Long Happy summer, 2014, 32" x 31," Watercolor on Paper. Courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery.

When we consider the vast amount of images available via platforms like Tumblr, Flickr, Google Image search, etc., it is really amazing to contemplate the changing archives available to contemporary artists.  Gluibizzi comments on this, "[i]n art school, 20 years ago, you had to go to the art library and spend long - but wonderful hours - going through the racks and finding the pictures and that is something that I think artists will always do, will need to do. But now with Tumblr, it's wide open." 

Penelope Umbrico | Sunset Portraits from 9623557 Sunset Pictures on Flickr 8-22-11, 2011, detail of installation in Korea, 4" x 6," machine c-prints
Courtesy of Mark Moore Gallery.

More and more, artists are moving towards this vast social media archive, tapping into its potential with massive amounts of free footage and material. Artist Penelope Umbrico, for example, uses photos found on Flickr as her medium for creating mega-meta-visions of the subject at hand (as with Sunset Portraits from 9623557 Sunset Pictures on Flickr 8-22-11). And Gavin Bunner (NAP #65 & 97) uses Google Image searches to create an image bank featuring an array of search-term-subjects to populate his themed paintings.

Dan Gluibizzi |
Bongs, 2014, 24" x 30.25," Watercolor on Paper. Courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery.

Gluibizzi's style is really unique too. He pairs like groups together: friends, pornographic scenes, swinger couples, or proud stoner owners with their bongs. His light watercolor pastels feel more playful than pornographic even when poses are super-suggestive and provocative. And although his figures are missing any kind of intricate facial details that might render them more personality and uniqueness, all of his works still feel warm and intimate. Perhaps there is something in their universality that is appealing and more friendly than Google searches or Tumblr streams of stranger after stranger. 

Dan Gluibizzi |
Green Archive, 2014, 37" x 31," Watercolor on Paper. Courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery.

He pairs these groups together in different ways—often they are strung together with connecting lines, as if each subject is actually in a social network or interweb. Some of his more racy images line up vertically in comic strip-like columns of juxtaposed images, making the pornographic stills more tender and playful—and overt in some ways. There are also wonderful moments of subversion, as in Green Apple when a woman’s fingers in the bottom right make an "X" shape over her lap as if to indicate “no entry.” Though this image sits alongside a graphic fellatio magazine cover with the simple word “YES” above. These antonymic points are strangely suggestive and meddling, calling to mind the frat boy’s mantra that no might just mean yes.

Gliubizzi also uses the negative space of white watercolor paper in an interesting way, forming everyone's eyes, nipples, and mouths out of empty negative space so that the white paper normally reserved as a background protrudes through these painted openings. This again makes the viewer feel at both connected and disconnected from the people depicted. They are faceless, yet something about the anonymity makes them seem to be anyone and everyone.

Dan Gluibizzi |
Between Friends, 2014, 29" x 33.5," Watercolor on Paper. Courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery.

In his own words, Gluibizzi says, "I'm always looking at photography, but painting and drawing is really what the end result is all about; making a handmade work of art in which people can see my touch." His painterly social networks pull you in and welcome you to stay. Plus they satisfy the voyeur in us, in a far more aesthetically pleasing way than any kind of Facebook, Flickr, or Tumblr stream ever could.


Portland-based Dan Gluibizzi was earned his MFA from the University of Cincinnati. His show "Between Friends" runs at the Kopeikin Gallery through April 19, 2014.

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.


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