The art of image manipulation
“I think laugh lines are sexier than any six pack. Life is hard enough as it is, it’s good to have humor.”
Los Feliz based artist Johnny Smith had no idea his work would go viral when he posted an image of Rosie O’Donnell’s face blended onto White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s head.
But that’s exactly what happened earlier this year in February; the morning after he posted it online, O’Donnell had taken the parody image as the avatar of her Twitter account, bringing it to the attention of Vanity Fair, Breitbart and countless social media pages.
“I heard about it through a barrage of texts from friends, some of whom I haven’t spoken in to years” says Smith.
“It was pretty exhilarating! And then it was over. It lasted a cool 24 hours.”
Such is the unpredictable nature of the internet, Smith’s primary exhibition space.
His work, such as “Rosie Bannon”, comprises images collected online, cut out and deftly remixed entirely on his iPad. Body parts are embedded into landscapes; innocuous outlines of flowers seductively combine with snippets of pornography; Julie Andrews, posed in front of the Alps in that iconic cover image from The Sound of Music, is suddenly holding a selfie stick.
In their vibrant colors and subversive tones, they evoke the works of John Baldessari, Superstudio and Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari’s ToiletPaper magazine. Smith’s formal training was not in art though, but in film; he came to Los Angeles from his native Texas in 2004 to pursue movie production.
Collage was simply a hobby that began on his iPhone before graduating to an iPad. Gallery exhibitions have come as surprise to him.
Smith’s work, however, still feels most at home on the internet, an experimental lab where he’s constantly testing the boundaries of acceptable online behavior.