Art In America

Siebren Versteeg

at bitforms gallery,
131 Allen Street

What is an artist to do when more art is being produced than ever before, and billions of digital images are sent, consumed, and copied each day? Siebren Versteeg's response has been to partially automate his process. He develops software to create paintings by simulating brushwork and arranging images found online. The colorful grounds of works made by the program Today (2017) sport thumbnail images of celebrities and politicians from current headlines. They are too small to recognize, though the composition of the images identifies them as journalistic portraiture. Randomized brush strokes unite the tiny pictures in a composition. More impressive are the big canvases produced by A Rose (2017), a program that, in a nod to painterly genius of a more heroic age, constructs variations on Jay DeFeo's The Rose (1958–66), which the late artist labored over for eight years. Versteeg’s versions are made more quickly, of course, and with a softer palette dominated by white, pink and green. The works resulting from both Today and A Rose are prints on canvas, not paintings, but it takes a second look to identify them as such. The pigments run in tracks of brush hairs that spread and move at varying widths. An active program running on a computer in the gallery reveals how this is done: a real brush leans against a monitor as an image moves past a window on the touchscreen beneath it. The brush is motionless, but the digital canvas is supple, and the weight and direction of the marks shift as if the pressure on the brush is changing. The floating image becomes a surrogate for the artist's hand. —Brian Droitcour

 

Pictured: Siebren Versteeg: A Rose, 2017, algorithmically generated image printed on canvas, flash-drive, 108 by 64 inches. Courtesy bitforms gallery, New York. Photo John Berens.

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