Automat und Mensch

Curated by Jason Bailey & Georg Bak

29th may - 15th Oct

The Automat und Mensch exhibition is, above all, an opportunity to put important work by generative artists spanning the last 70 years into context by showing it in a single location. By juxtaposing important works like the 1956/’57 oscillograms by Herbert W. Franke (age 91) with the 2018 AI Generated Nude Portrait #1 by contemporary artist Robbie Barrat (age 19), we can see the full history and spectrum of generative art as has never been shown before.

According to curator Jason Bailey:

In the last twelve months we have seen a tremendous spike in the interest of “AI art,” ushered in by Christie’s and Sotheby’s both offering works at auction developed with machine learning. Capturing the imaginations of collectors and the general public alike, the new work has some conservative members of the art world scratching their heads and suggesting this will merely be another passing fad. What they are missing is that this rich genre, more broadly referred to as “generative art,” has a history as long and fascinating as computing itself. A history that has largely been overlooked in the recent mania for “AI art” and one that co-curators Georg Bak and Jason Bailey hope to shine a bright light on in their upcoming show Automat und Mensch (or Machine and Man) at Kate Vass Galerie in Zurich, Switzerland.  

Generative art, once perceived as the domain of a small number of “computer nerds,” is now the artform best poised to capture what sets our generation apart from those that came before us - ubiquitous computing. As children of the digital revolution, computing has become our greatest shared experience. Like it or not, we are all now computer nerds, inseparable from the many devices through which we mediate our worlds.

Though slow to gain traction in the traditional art world, generative art produces elegant and compelling works that extend the very same principles and goals that analog artists have pursued from the inception of modern art. Geometry, abstraction, and chance are important themes not just for generative art, but for much of the important art of the 20th century.

Every generation claims art is dead, asking, “Where are our Michelangelos? Where are our Picassos?” only to have their grandchildren point out generations later that the geniuses were among us the whole time. With generative art we have the unique opportunity to celebrate the early masters while they are still here to experience it.

Mantel Blue , Manolo Gamboa Naon (Personal collection of Kate Vass), 2018

Mantel Blue, Manolo Gamboa Naon (Personal collection of Kate Vass), 2018

Plotterzeichnung, Tinte auf Papier,  Harold Cohen, 1983

Plotterzeichnung, Tinte auf Papier, Harold Cohen, 1983

Correction of Rubens: Saturn Devouring His Son,  Robbie Barrat, 2019

Correction of Rubens: Saturn Devouring His Son, Robbie Barrat, 2019