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PUSHED FROM THE PUSSY OF THE INTERNET: THE BOUNDARY-BREAKING ART OF YUNG JAKE

“Make it new.”

This phrase, uttered by legendary editor, artist and writer Ezra Pound, should crawl into the mind of a contemporary artist at various points in their career. The void between the modern artist and art itself is brimming with technology – new mediums of presentation, new platforms for one to display art, the pixels of a computer screen have become the glimmering tiles of a floor, guiding the viewer to an art exhibit. The art world has taken an overwhelming, and perhaps even a metaphysical turn – what is there? The most feasible way of understanding such ideas would be to communicate from within the realm of contemporary, computerized art.

Enter Yung Jake – a cyber-rap-artist, who insists that he was “born on the internet in 2011”. Such a claim may seem humorous and a wink at the artist’s platform – until the audience tries to dig deeper, only to find that there is little evidence to suggest where Yung Jake truly came to be. A biography is irrelevant, however, as this is an instance where the artist is a reflection of his medium, rather than vice versa.

Yung Jake is perhaps best known for his incredibly detailed, post-paintbrush portraits of pop culture celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, etc., using emojis. The result of these portraits is a resemblance to stained glass murals found in churches and other places of worship; such a comparison reflects the modern day obsession and religious connection people seem to have for these larger than life celebrities — and to be immortalized with the use of the newly surfacing emoji trend causes a confrontation between the audience and the constant oscillation of this computer age.  Yung Jake flaunts his creative, avant-swag through interactive online experiences – most of which are usually accompanied by one of Jake’s own music videos. These interactive pieces are intrusive, jarring and demand attention. The 2013 piece entitled e.m-bed.de/d strips the viewer of any control they may have thought they had. With e.m-bed.de/d, Yung Jake hones internet-borne concepts and incorporates them while a video for the eponymous song plays on the main window. Ads pop up without warning, windows minimize and close erratically – it is as if someone is operating the platform from within; as if Yung Jake had climbed back into the womb of the internet which he claims to have given birth to him, and is pulling the strings of this hypnotically unique experience. More recently, the music video for his song Both comes as a splicing of art and rap on an interactive platform; Jake unleashes the piece via social media. The video for Both was released on the app Snapchat – but it was released split in half. The viewer must add both accounts created by Jake, on two different mobile devices and place the devices side by side in order to experience the full picture. Is this a direct commentary on the fragmentation of the postmodern art world? Or simply another trippy example of Yung Jake’s ability to fuck hip-hop and interactive art together?

There exists an interesting commentary beneath the surface of Jake’s seemingly petty lyricism. He earned his BFA in 2012 at the California Institute of the Arts, and through his aforementioned emoji paintings, he has proven that he’s an incredible visual artist. However, Yung Jake had made comments in the past – via text message to LA Weekly – about reactions he’d experienced in regards to his art: “every time I made a painting it was about being black all da sudden…so I started making raps about pretty-hoe-bitches and suddenly blackness wasn’t an issue anymore.”

There is a profundity to the work of LA-based Yung Jake. At the surface, one might take it as nothing more than rap videos released in interesting ways – but there’s so much more than that. It’s satire, it’s commentary on the ghettoization of African-American art and it’s a nod to the unmistakable marriage between human and technology. Whether you experience his work at Sundance, at the Steve Turner Gallery or through the screen of your laptop – there is an undeniable charm; a charisma that only a product of the modern age could possess, understand and manipulate.

In 2011, Yung Jake was born on the internet. In 3011, the internet will still know that he made art new.