While history is full of people trying to narrowly define what art is, people always seem to come along to gleefully create artwork that fits well outside of those boundaries. While everyone may have an opinion on what good art is, there is probably never going to be a consensus, and there probably never should be. Art is, inherently, about pushing beyond boundaries and coloring outside of the lines. The entire purpose of art is to show you how the world looks inside of another person’s head, and good art can change minds, change lives and make profound statements about who we are as people and a society
One of the most controversial new art movements in modern history has been the explosion in popularity of street art. While many see it simply as graffiti and consider it more vandalism than art, street art was born in ignored and disenfranchised communities who found that the only way they could get the world to listen to them was by forcing them to. Over the years graffiti has evolved to include massive art installations and quirky stenciling that offers colorful commentary or reflections on the state of our world. Street art exists in every city on every continent, from the deepest slums to the brightest and most modern metropolises.
Leon Reid IV has been making the cities of the world his backdrop for almost two decades, and has created street art in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Los Angeles, London and even in Germany, Norway and Brazil. As a teen Reid was known as “VERBS” and was a prolific tagger throughout New York City before he started creating inspired installations and sculptures. He uses all sorts of mediums for his art, from metal, concrete, bricks, paint and, since 2014, 3D printing. His first foray into mixing 3D printing and art was a collaboration with MakerBot that took place at the MakerBot store in Brooklyn. Reid 3D printed snippets of poetry and song lyrics live, in front of an audience who had no idea what they would be reading until the print was complete.
Reid’s latest 3D printing art project is a new style of self portrait that subverts our expectations of what we expect a three dimensional portrait to look like. The installation is called 3D Print Portrait and was his attempt to use modern technology to create portraits of himself – a tradition that, in two-dimensional and sculptural form, has been practiced by artists for thousands of years. The two portraits that he created for his new show at TECH-ART was his attempt to develop a new style of portraiture.
“Portraiture in the classical sense -the capturing of an individual’s likeness- has been practiced for millennia across every culture in the world. In studying portraiture, one learns not only about the individual captured, but also about the tools and techniques of that particular culture. For example, Classical Western portraiture tends to be more expressive of human emotion, whereas Dynastic Egyptian portraiture tends to be idealized and symbolic. As an artist living and working in 21st Century America, I felt it was necessary to continue the tradition of portraiture using the tools made available today. 3D printing did not exist in classical Egyptian, Western or Asian art. Therefore I’m using the 3D printer as my modern day chisel and hammer,” Reid explained via email.
Reid used 3D scans to 3D print distorted busts, one of art curator Amani Olu and a second of himself. He used MakerWare to distort the X,Y, and Z axes until he found the geometry that he was after, then he printed the busts out and sanded them down until they had a smooth finish. He then applied multiple coats of watered down oil paints, called washes, to convert the prints into full color portraits. The resulting painted portraits are distorted just enough that the viewer can never really find the correct angle to look at them from, which produces a dizzying effect.
Here is some video of the artwork from multiple angles:
Reid’s solo exhibit, called Soul For Technology, which includes his 3D Print Portraits, opened on March 12 at New York’s TECH-ART. There is only been one copy of each portrait, and in order to prove the authenticity in case the STL file is replicated, each one has been Fingerprint Signed. You can learn more about Reid’s amazing career in art by visiting his website here. Discuss over in the 3D Printed Portraits forum at 3DPB.com.