Richard Dupont is an American artist who lives and works in New York City. His multifaceted artistic practice includes installations, sculptures, paintings, drawings, reliefs, animals and prints. Dupont’s work draws from a variety of themes and references, and engages the Postdigital in relation to the history of sculpture and the Body art, Process art and Systems art movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
In order to analyse Dupont’s work, we must first establish what Postdigital is. This term points significantly to our rapidly changed and changing relationships with digital technologies and art forms (Andrews, n.d.). Postdigital refers to works that reject the hype of the so-called digital revolution. The familiar digital tropes of purity, pristine sound and images and perfect copies are abandoned in favour of errors, glitches and artefacts (Andrews, n.d.). This concept resonates with Dupont’s work as he focuses on moving away from pure information. Dupont states, “It’s always been about reconciling the contradiction of using a digital starting point and ending in a material space” (MAD, 2016). Furthermore, Dupont’s interests in Body art, Process art, and Systems art movements helped shape his artistic practice today. These movements were fascinated with diffusing the veil between artist and artwork, rattling the definition of art, and how the general construction of a work takes precedence over the final product. These four movements influences can be heavily seen in Dupont’s conceptual ideas as he investigates themes, such as, the human body in its natural states, human consciousness, and identity.
Dupont’s art-making practice was also heavily influenced by Alberto Burri and his paintings of melted dripping plastic (Thorne, 2013). Burri rejected ‘rich’ traditional mediums such as oil paint and bronze in favour of unconventional processes, working with ‘everyday’ materials including soil, rags and twigs. Dupont’s work resonates with this practice as he uses the idea of formlessness to inspire his works. Furthermore, Jasper Johns is said to have influenced Dupont, specifically his earlier works where he would do rubbings of his face in order to develop his body onto the surface (Thorne, 2013). Additionally, Johns’ painting where the encaustic surface that had been gnawed into. To Dupont, this period was the first time that people started thinking about formlessness, anti-form, allowing the material to dictate the end result, and the idea of trying to get the body into that space (Thorne, 2013). It is clear that this period really assisted in developing Dupont’s style in creating a less willful, self-conscious imposition of what an artwork should end up looking like.
You probably wouldn’t recognise Richard Dupont from the many works he’s done based on his own form. A collection of fleshy-pink men, the larger-than-life etching of his hand, or his polyurethane resin castings of his head filled with the waste of his life are just a few of his self-portraits that have very little to do with the self (Lombardi, 2011). He first began replicating his body in 2001, when he made several pieces of his body compressed by 30% (Braithwaite, 2012). The head was done from scan data, and the body has a more traditional origin – a life cast of his body made in foam. From these experiments, Dupont’s more recent works reflect the various technological improvements made in 3D printing and scanning. He began working with 3D digital scanning technology when he was searching for the means to visualise his ego (Art & Technology, n.d). At the time, few people knew or used the technology, making it difficult for Dupont to find a company that could quickly create his models. Dupont did some research and learned that he could do the scan at General Dynamics, on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. They performed the scan of his body, however he was unable to remove his shorts, this meant that he had to make plaster casts of his whole midsection, and also his hands and feet, to get more detail (Kunitz, 2008). Dupont had to maintain the exact same weight and position when doing additional casting in order to graft the pieces correctly. Despite facing various obstacles and limitations, Dupont successfully completed a laser scanning of his entire body, creating a 3D digital model of himself. Since then, Dupont has presented works that distort and modify his scanned image.
Dupont’s 2008 piece, Untitled #5, was apart of the Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney. This work reflects his more recent experimentations with distorting the human figure through 3D scanning technology. This installation consisted of a larger-than-life, full-figure self-portrait that has a wavy distortion that seems more exaggerated when viewed from different perspectives. He achieved these effects by running a wave pattern through a digital model that was drawn from a 3D scan of his body. Using a combination of further 3D scanning, plaster casting, 3D printing and C.N.C. milling, the figure was created in sections and assembled together, from which a mold was created, and then the final sculpture cast in polyurethane resin and hand-finished (Labaco, 2014). I believe that Dupont chose to use polyurethane resin as it can change its properties from a soft pliable rubber to a very hard and rigid plastic. Rubber has this elasticity in it that’s related to flesh and this is the reason why I speculate on his choice of resin. This sculpture explores how over a period of only a few years, industrial fabrication has advanced by leaps and bounds. Materials and media formerly unrelated to art, such as synthetic resins (plastics), polyurethane and silicone have now become available (Art & Technology, n.d). Dupont has been at the forefront of this trend as he incorporates these technologies in his art.
When I viewed the Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital exhibition, Untitled #5 was like a glance into a funhouse mirror. This work of Dupont seemed to be stretched by time and space. As I walked around the figures, you get all these different perspectives as the surfaces change. That’s one way the distortions are interesting, because no two perspectives are the same. We sometimes see them and think they’re flat, then realise they’re objects – this is a hard thing for our brains to process immediately. However, it’s not just retinal, it’s also physiological: There’s queasiness, an anxiety caused by the brain not being able to understand the two things at once. By distorting his own face and body, it’s as if he is pondering the notion of identity and individuality in a contemporary society, these notions which are affected by technology (Art & Technology, n.d). I believe that he is suggesting that an individuals’ self-perception is always distorted and flawed, and thus removed from their objective existence in reality. His large confronting sculpture demands viewers to reflect on this point and recognise their limited perspectives as well as their passive consumption of civilisation’s images (Art & Technology, n.d). Furthermore, I thought to myself, how does a contemporary artist present you with a work that makes you stop in your tracks and transports you into another dimension? Dupont explains, “The magic of imparting the real world into a static object… it’s about immortality and magic. The problem is that magic is all around us… with digital technology and advertising… so much so that we become desensitised.” Creating magic is his artistic intent and it is easier and more complex than ever.
In order to have achieved the results of Untitled #5, Dupont identified key movements and artists that influenced his design and conceptual motives. This initial inspiration led to the development of his art-making practice and initial ways of achieving his goal of a 3D body scan replica. Early experimentation in casting his body in foam furthered his research into technological body scanning where he eventually achieved his outcome. Dupont was then able to trial different molding materials and digitally distorted effects to develop his artistic intent. It is obvious that through these processes, he was able to achieve a mesmerising sculpture that combines 21st century and traditional practices.
Labaco R. 2014. Richard Dupont. ‘Crafting Out Of Hand.’ Available here: http://www.richarddupont.com/news/crafting-out-of-hand [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Andrews I. n.d. Post Dig. ‘Post-digital Aesthetics and the Return to Modernism.’ Available here: http://www.ian-andrews.org/texts/postdig.html [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Art & Technology. n.d. Brand.hyundai.com. ‘Richard Dupont – Hyundai Motor Brand Homepage.’ Available here: http://brand.hyundai.com/en/art/art-world/art-technology-richard-dupont.do [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Braithwaite H. 2012. Charest-Weinberg. ‘Surveiling the Relics.’ Available here: http://charestweinberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Richard_Dupont_World_Sculpture_News.pdf [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Thorne J. 2013, May 2nd. Cool Hunting. ‘Interview: Richard Dupont.’ Available here: http://www.coolhunting.com/culture/interview-richard-dupont-1 [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). 2016. ‘Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital.’ Available here: http://madmuseum.org/exhibition/out-hand [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Lombardi J. 2011. May 5th. Avenue Magazine. ‘The Many Faces of Richard Dupont.’ Available here: http://www.avenuemagazine.com/the-many-faces-of-richard-dupont/ [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Sheets H. 2013. October 25th. The New York Times. ‘Artists Take Up Digital Tools.’ Available here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/arts/artsspecial/artists-take-up-digital-tools.html [Accessed: 26/04/17]
Kunitz D. 2008. April 1st. Village Voice. ‘Richard Dupont’s Naked Launch.’ Available here: http://www.villagevoice.com/arts/richard-duponts-naked-launch-7134058 [Accessed: 26/04/17]