Thanks to great advances in artificial intelligence, humans aren’t the only ones making art anymore. As computers get in on the creative action, art critic Jerry Saltz has taken their efforts to task, offering some fairly savage reviews of works of art generated by various algorithms.
In a segment on HBO’s VICE News Tonight, Saltz was asked to judge a series of works made by AI rather than by human hands. “I’m looking for humanity, dignity, horror, originality,” he said, laying out his criterion for a successful piece.
Saltz slammed a Google Deep Dream work—made by enhancing patterns in existing images—for selecting a banal dog for its subject matter, but he admitted: “I don’t hate this.” He compared the image’s horror vacui—a lack empty space, with details filling every section of the work—to Northwest Coast American Indian art. Another piece by the algorithm was faintly praised as “a good knockoff Shepard Fairey.”
An untitled painting by GAN algorithm from Mario Klingemann, which has been trained on female selfies and historical portraits of men, got mixed reviews. Saltz likened it to the work of Lisa Yuskavage, known for her colorful paintings of women. Ultimately, however, the computer’s effort lacked depth and was more akin to “bad album cover from the 1970s.”
Saltz declined to compare Palimpsest by AICON, an algorithm that has been trained to replicate Western art, to the work of any specific artist, “because I don’t think any artist was this boring.” But he praised Portrait of Elle Reeve, saying “this is the first image I’ve seen that doesn’t look like a computer made it.”
The piece was made by Pindar Van Arman using Cloud Painter, a robot controlled by multiple creative algorithms. But while Saltz acknowledged the robot’s “good taste” in Post-Impressionist art and admitted he might have been fooled into thinking a human made it, he insisted that even the best effort of today’s AI technology “doesn’t come close to art.”
See the video above.
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