Working as a night-shift technician for a newspaper in 1997, Jeff Elrod somewhat haphazardly identified the capacity of the computer as an artistic medium. Realizing the computer could help to establish a sense of distance between his consciousness and his output, Elrod began a career-long method of using paint brushes or spray cans to trace lines, squiggles and words onto his canvas after first generating them in a computer software program. The resulting artwork can be interpreted as a contemporary take on Surrealist automatism, with the computer taking on the creative role of producing line and color. Executed in 1999, Exile in Paris possesses this element of computer generation in its erratic, digitized text, as well as its binary color field and actual incorporation of typeface.
The painting is an allusion to the Baader-Meinhof Group, an underground guerilla organization active in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Convicted of arson bombing, Andreas Baader and his comrades spent several years on the run, canvassing Europe to commit robberies and bombing sprees, much to the chagrin of authorities and unanticipated support of many West Germans. At one point the outlaws sought refuge in the Paris apartment of wealthy French journalist and revolutionary Régis Debray, himself imprisoned for aiding Ché Guevara in his efforts in Bolivia. The group’s societal agitation is eternized in Elrod’s painting, with words like HOTELS, MONEY, POOR and UND (short for underground) stretching capriciously across the canvas as if scribbled with a computer mouse.