Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

I’m working on a new pixel painting called Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940. I started it about 2 weeks ago. It’s 24″x30″ and should be finished in about a month or so depending on how diligent I am. The painting will be made using half inch squares which will make it 60 pixels wide by 48 pixels high equalling 2880 squares altogether. It’s part of a series of pixelated black and white paintings that I’ve been working on based on old photos that deal with violence and destruction. The first one I made was back in 2005 for the show “Epicenter City” and shows the first transportable atomic bomb in a suitcase called Davy Crockett. It’s 6′ tall and 8′ wide and is made on 2 canvases. It was made using 6912 one inch squares.

Davy Crockett from Epicenter City by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

I make all of my own panels that I then stretch canvas over. This way I can lean on the canvases while I’m working on them. I start by reducing the image down to the specific amount of pixels that I want and griding it out accordingly. I paint these using Golden Acrylics since it will dry faster and I can work without having to worry about smearing anything that I’ve just painted. I have a set of Golden Neutral Gray paints that I use that are numbered from N8 (lightest) to N2 (darkest) excluding Titanium White and Mars Black. I also mix inbetween shades which include 8.75, 8.5, 7.75, 7.5, 6.5, 5.5, 4.5, 3.5 and 2.5. I made a shade chart in case I need help. I start in one corner and start writing numbers in the squares according to what shade of gray they will get. I move the canvas around, filling in sections at a time until I’m finished. Here’s one that I finished earlier this year called The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.

The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

I like the idea of pixelating old photographs. At first I wasn’t sure about the significance of it as it relates to my practice or even if it was that interesting of an idea; I’m certainly not the first one to do it. But I like to think of my work as parts for a larger idea that I may or may not understand at the time of their conception which means that the process must be slightly intuitive. On a basic level I enjoy the space that the pixelating creates by establishing a language that is related to both abstraction and “reality based” work. It occupies both spaces at the same time and yet is perceived as one or the other depending on the viewer’s point of view. It’s a visual trick whereas the information is limited by the reduction of resolution and yet our brains, at enough of a distance, will fill in the rest of the information for us in order to complete the picture.

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Filed under Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, Painting

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