Tumblin’: An Interview with Zach Tutor, Editor of Supersonic Electronic
In addition to being a gifted artist and writer, Zach Tutor runs Supersonic Electronic, one of the best showcases of contemporary art on Tumblr. SE boasts over 110,000 followers and has seen its contributors’ work featured in hugely successful exhibitions, including the very first Supersonic Electronic Invitational, recently held at Spoke Art in San Francisco. We asked Zach about what catches his eye, Tumblr’s effect on the art world, and curating an exhibition in California from Mississippi.
What do you look for in art for the site?
The art I post on Supersonic Electronic is, I feel, of a certain technical and imaginative ability. I feel this separates my blog from other Tumblr art blogs as far as quality goes. The ability has to be there as well as a strong portfolio. Sometimes artists will have one or two good works, and this is good, but this also means that they’re not quite ready to be posted.
I hardly ever think abstraction is interesting, to be honest: it’s more of artistic rhetoric to me. When I look at art I want to see things I’ve dreamt about or never imagined. Or I want to be amazed by an artist’s ability at recreating a three dimensional world on a two dimensional plain. Abstract art is like static on a screen to me, I can see that there’s something there but it lacks passion or ability. I can respect the thoughts and movement though. So that’s why more figurative work seems to show up on Supersonic Electronic.
The Supersonic Electronic Invitational just wrapped up at the Spoke Gallery in San Francisco. How did that come about and how did the Tumblr community help?
Yeah, it closed on January 26th after being up since January 5th. I write for the art magazine Hi Fructose and was approached to do so by a gentleman named Ken Harman. Ken’s the guy behind the group shows “Bad Dads: A Tribute to Wes Anderson” and “Quentin vs. Coens” as well as a few others. He had just opened Spoke Art when we started to communicate and we became really great friends pretty quickly. It wasn’t long after talking to him for the firs time that he brought up doing a show based around Supersonic Electronic. Of course I said, “yes,” and thankfully all the artists I asked said yes as well. Tumblr, once they found out that the show was happening, contacted us and basically said “We will help you however much we can.” Which was a huge, huge deal and a huge, huge honor - to say the least.
We decided to have all the artists that had Tumblrs, which was most all of them, to post a piece from the show which in turn Tumblr graciously put onto their “Radar” feature. This was the first time they’ve done anything like it. So it was very awesome of them. They also sent a ton of tote bags and stickers for us to give away at the opening—they were completely gone within two hours of opening the doors. The opening was crazily successful.
You’re based in Mississippi, you’ve an art show in California, and your blog features art from all over the world. How, in your opinion, has the internet-induced shrinking of the world affected art?
Basically, I think Tumblr itself is changing the art world for the better. Tumblr users are saturated with art and that’s absolutely fantastic: it’s recreating a love for art on some new, grand level. People see the art I post and they really love it and they in turn follow these artists and really become part of the art world as fans or artists themselves.
As for the internet-induced shrinking of the world, five years ago an art blogger from Mississippi would not have been having an art show with some of the best artists from around the world in San Francisco. I have absolutely zero publications related to Supersonic Electronic in a printed format—there’s no advertising other than word of mouth. It just wouldn’t have happened. I have Tumblr and Ken Harman to thank for it. I’m not sure if the art world has really wanted to notice it. This was sort of the first time this has ever happened, so maybe after a few more blogs follow suit and have shows as well, and after the second and third annual Supersonic Electronic Invitationals take place then perhaps we could see a major, major shift in things. It’s really exciting to think about, personally.
Legislation like SOPA, PIPA, and now ACTA seem targeted at slowing the proliferation of shared material online. How do you think these laws would affect sites like SE, or art tumblogs in general?
It would end them, completely. Greed is a horrible thing.
SE runs the gamut from occasionally cute to viscerally intense: what do you think accounts for that kind of range in submissions?
Most of the artists I post are relatively young. They’ve grown up in a world based around the internet and from this have experienced a constant onslaught of images and pop culture. They’ve had access to unlimited inspiration. I’m not sure what to call it yet but it’s certainly a movement of some type. I like to think of SE as chronicling it all.
What advice would you give to budding artists looking to become more involved with Tumblr’s art community?
You can always submit your artwork to Supersonic Electronic: people don’t really realize, but there’s a button at the bottom of the page. But I’d say start a Tumblr and post your art every day. It would gather fans as well as allow you a goal. The best artists honestly draw every day and if you keep a Tumblr of it you can notice your own progress and ideas starting to become a cohesive body of work. Tumblr is also a social platform, so critique and assistance is always readily available - not to mention inspiration.
Head over to Supersonic Electronic to browse the brilliance or submit your work, and don’t forget to follow @SupersonicArt on Twitter.
Art credits: [Photoset images (L-R): 1. Zach Tutor, Supersonic Electronic Logo; 2. Angie Wang, “The Story of Beauty;” 3. Egene Koo, “Being Alone 1;” 4. Erik Jones, untitled; 5. Motomichi Nakamura, untitled; 6. John Reuss, untitled]