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Digital Painter Reworks Iconic Photojournalism Shots in LES Exhibition

By Serena Solomon | January 24, 2013 8:08am

LOWER EAST SIDE — His canvas is a computer screen and his paintbrush is a mouse.

Digital painter James Drosnes will be holding his first solo exhibition, the Krause Gallery, on Orchard Street, showcasing iconic photojournalism images that have been digitally reworked to mimic the style of impressionist art works.

Through "Iconograffiti," which opens Thursday, Drosnes hopes the recast works will jar his audience into reconnecting with the context of famous images, such as a lone protester staring down tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989, or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"My intent is to keep enough of the image, but to present it in a way that shocks you out of that trance-like state of seeing that image over and over again," said Drosnes, 46, an Upper West Side native who now lives in Westchester. "Once you see it differently it hopefully reminds you about the world around the picture not the pictures itself."

Drosnes uses the graphic design program Photoshop to add his style to the images with tiny strokes of colors from the brush function in the program. The bright color and Monet-style of the paint work seems contrary to the famous images that the art works are built upon.

"Any photograph that is taken, over time [it] starts to become your memory and the actual event that took place becomes replaced by the photograph in your memory," he said. “Sometimes the actual event itself becomes forgotten."

For example, Drosnes said his own memory of details surrounding the 1989 image of the lone protester during the Tiananmen Square protest were fuzzy until he began doing research for his project.

"I had forgotten the whole context of the image," he said of the standoff between protesters and the army, which ended in protesters' deaths.

In choosing bright and happy colors from his Photoshop palette, Drosnes said he aims to draw a contrast to the often tragic event in the image.

For the 1963 confronting image of a Vietnamese monk who set himself ablaze in protest against Buddhist persecution, the flames and smoke are in shades of bright pink.

"I pick colors that were completely inappropriate for the event," Drosnes said.

Iconograffiti runs from : Jan. 24 to Feb. 17, 2013 at the Krause Gallery at 149 Orchard St.