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Chris Drange’s large-format portraits are representative of post-digital pop art. He confronts the medium of painting with likenesses taken from social media, in order to visualize identity-endowing options from Internet networks. His works are not only rooted in pop art, however; they reflect the venerable tradition of court painting, since Drange’s subjects are also glamourous people, “celebrities” in the digital world, depicted in photo(shop) realistic style on canvas.


Filtering his “models” out of various Internet networks, the artist processes the selfies he finds on the computer, adding selected emojis, for example. The data is then enlarged to their final dimensions at a machine learning company in Lithuania. Finally, the portraits are painted on canvas at an oil painting factory in China. One previous practitioner of this kind of painting strategy is Martin Kippenberger, who had a poster painter execute the paintings in his 1981 series Dear Painter, Please Paint Me.


Drange, however, is interested in more than the issues of authorship and the artist’s signature. He gives digital images a material reality: the selfies transposed to canvas are wrested from the intangible river of data and exist as pictorial readymades. In this way they become nearly kitschy allegories of beauty and youth, death and mortality, standing in the tradition of “classic” portrait painting.


It is precisely this moment of kitsch that is significant, because it is characterized by what Theodor W. Adorno called an “inherent moment of fulfillment” and “freedom.” This moment of happiness allows Drange to say something about the emotional content of the social media world that can generally be understood. To do so, he abandons the strategy of critique, without turning to affirmation. Instead, his concept of “being understood” allows for a type of reception that perceives and comprehends and is thus similar to pop art and its use of over-affirmation.


Selfies are initiated by self-identification, which results in the presentation of the self in media, thus motivating others to identify, as well. This effect, which opens up the option for Drange’s paintings to be a kind of art for everyone, is also reflected in his book Relics (2017). In the book selfies of famous Instagrammers are accompanied by the comments and selfies of their “followers.” The contrast makes it clear that the identification that occurs here is not simply “blind loyalty,” but of the kind that results in their followers actively presenting themselves, too.

text by Raimar Stange




2019     LINK IN BIO, MdbK Leipzig, Group Exhibition, Leipzig


2019     NEW PAINTINGS, HFBK Graduation Exhibition, Hamburg


2019     CLASS OF ANSELM REYLE, HFBK Annual Exhibition, Hamburg


2018     CLASS OF ANSELM REYLE, HFBK Annual Exhibition, Hamburg


2017     ARTIST´S BOOKS FOR EVERYTHING, Centre for Artists´Publications, Weserburg, Museum for Modern Art, Bremen


2017     KLEINE GESELLSCHAFT FÜR PROFANE RELIQUIEN, Kleine Gesellschaft für Kunst und Kultur, Hamburg


2016     HECHO EN SOCIALISMO, Konform, Lemgo


2016     WIMMELBILDER, HFBK Annual Exhibition, Hamburg


2014     CRASH, Photo Bastei, Zürich


2013     RAUM1, F40, Berlin


2012     DIE HAUT DER STADT, Fenster61, Berlin


2012     TIME IN SPACE, New York Photography Awards Exhibition, Brooklyn, New York


2012     PASSAGES, Salon Separee, Berlin






2017      RELICS, 112 pp., 97 ills., Hatje Cantz Verlag, ISBN 978-3-7757-4362-4


2015      HECHO EN SOCIALISMO – SOCIALISM TODAY IN VENEZUELA, 160 pp., 149 ills., Kerber Verlag, ISBN 978-3-7356-0096-7


2014      NYPH Journal, Volume 1, TIME IN SPACE, powerHouse Books, ISBN 978-1-5768-7664-0




2017      Publication Promotion, Materialverlag – HFBK, Hamburg
2017      Promotion, Purple Earth Foundation, Berlin



2019     MFA from Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK), Hamburg


2017     BFA from Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK), Hamburg


2015-19      studies at Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK), Hamburg


2013-14      studies at Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (HGB), Leipzig


2007-08      studies at School of the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York 


2007-08      studies at Art Students League of New York


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