Lenticular imagery remains one of the most intriguing and underutilized artistic mediums of the past 100 years. Scarred by a history of novelty merchandise, pinups, and strange religious reproductions, it has been an uphill battle for it to be taken seriously as a method of artistic production. But it is a rich medium for the creatively curious, a flat printed surface that can portray both motion and dimensionality with no need for electricity or special lighting. Lenticular is seeing a resurgence of use by legitimate artists and is being taken seriously by collectors and museums alike.
Though there were creative commercial applications of the medium starting as early as the 1940s, it was really Yaacov Agam
who popularized lenticular for the fine art world. Calling them Agamographs, Yaacov began making abstract lenticular work in the late 50s and produced a significant number of lenticular prints during his career. His son Ron Agam continues the work and is joined by a growing number of artists exploring the curious potential of the medium.
One artist playing with both the physical dynamics of lenticular printing and the history of the form is new media pioneer George Legrady. An artist fascinated by the past, Legrady’s new work merges historical photographs
of his family with modern images, creating a dialectic between the two that would be impossible without the visual merging enabled by lenticular printing. It’s time travel in a frame.
Artist Jeff Robb has made a career using lenticular to explore the human figure in three dimensions. Robb uses a variety of complex camera setups
to capture his subjects frozen in time but also from multiple simultaneous angles that allow him to print the results as 3D lenticulars. The complexity and painstaking attention to detail in the setup and shooting create figurative landscapes that are dreamlike and mesmerizing.
For some artists, lenticular printing is just another technique, but for others, like Baiju Parthan, it’s a form that raises philosophical questions. Parthan is a groundbreaking digital artist with degrees in fields ranging from fine arts to botany, who has studied civil engineering as well as comparative mythology, so it’s no surprise he takes an unconventional view of his work; as he puts it, “I’m a very nerdy artist.”
Nerdy or not, though, Parthan uses lenticular elements to interrogate the relationship of the virtual world to the physical one, and what it means to make ideas material. It’s a tool for asking big questions, as much as an alternative mode of visual representation.
One major change contemporary lenticular artists seem to be embracing is the desire to work large. It wasn’t long after wide format inkjet printers became popular that artists began using them to create lenticular works of real scale. Often partnering with a lenticular printing service
, artists are making mural-size prints that are immersive in nature, surrounding the viewer in an interactive, analog experience. A great example of this is the gigantic lenticular installation at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport by Daan Roosegaarde
. This colossal work of art surrounds the passerby in 3D clouds that are both moving and appear to be coming out towards the viewer. The experience is truly captivating.
By reimagining lenticular printing, from flat prints to fashion, artists are bringing an old form into a new era, and the results are exciting. As printing tools continue to evolve, we can expect artists will push the limits of lenticular printing even further, introducing new modes of motion into even the most-staid galleries.