Arte mat

The name given by Italian artists Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) and Carlo Carra (1881-1966) to the style of painting that resulted from their encounter at the military hospital in Ferrara in 1917. In English it is often referred to as ‘metaphysical painting’.

Although short-lived and not strictly a school, according to de Chirico’s brother ALBERTO SAVINIO (1891-1952), its significance was: ‘the total representation of spiritual necessities within plastic limits – power to express the spectral side of things – irony’. Metaphysical painting is imbued with an air of mystery, ambiguity and incongruity, achieved through unreal perspective and striking lighting.

Art-o-mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art.[1][2][3][4] They were invented by artist Clark Whittington.[5][6][7]

The inspiration for Art-o-mat came to Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane.[5][8] When Whittington’s friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.

After moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Whittington was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie (now Di Lisio’s Italian Restaurant).[5] This is when Whittington used a recently banned cigarette machine to create the first Artomat.[5] The show opened in June 1997 and the original machine was installed along with 12 of his assemblage paintings.[5] The machine sold Whittington’s black & white photographs for $1.00 each.[5]

This art show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997; however, Cynthia Giles (owner of the Penny Universitie) loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently.[5] Clark felt that the machine would create a conflict in the space unless it was open to artists in the community. Giles then introduced Whittington to a handful of other local artists, and Artists in Cellophane was formed. As of July 2018, there were over 100 machines around the world[9] and over 400 artists involved.[5][4][10][11] As of September 2021, there were over 200 machines in the USA, with additional machines in Austria and Australia.[12] Six of the machines are featured at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.[13]

Whittington maintains a small satellite studio in the Delurk Gallery in downtown Winston-Salem, where visitors can see work in progress on Art-o-mat machines.[14]

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