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Gabe Farrar + Siebren Versteeg | Art review

Human-made and computer-made art contrast in this show at the Suburban.

Photograph: Courtesy of Siebren Versteeg and The Suburban
Siebren Versteeg, _fountain_2_9000x12000_51, 2012.

Oak Park’s Suburban gallery presents two shows by two New Yorkers: one human and one machine. The first artist is Gabe Farrar, who creates works on paper using traditional ink and gouache. The second is a computer, programmed by Siebren Versteeg, that makes abstract “paintings” displayed as digital dye prints.

Versteeg’s work boasts a degree of humor: The computer—the pinnacle of logic—creates works in the most subjective, expressive genre. In _fountain_2_9000x12000_20, the computer uses thick black and gray brushstrokes to cluster swirls of paint. To Versteeg’s credit, there’s an eerie sense the computer-artist has a rudimentary grasp of color and scale and an awareness of the painting’s borders. In this way, Versteeg distinguishes himself from other artists creating algorithm abstractions, such as C.E.B. Reas, by “teaching” a machine to work in an analog medium. His computer paints using software that Versteeg codes himself in Lingo. A dye-sublimation printer creates the final product.

In contrast, Farrar’s six representational works all depict a central humanlike figure surrounded by Cubist-influenced city streets. The figures, highly informed by Surrealism, show body parts tied with ropes to trees and wooden planks interspersed with clocks, canes and medieval weapons. With their anonymity and open-eyed awareness, they express a bleak contemporary human experience: scattered, half-machine, completely lacking agency. Farrar’s anachronistic, art-historically charged work seems aloof from contemporary concerns, especially the mainstream technological world that Versteeg’s new-media work embraces. But perhaps Farrar’s disconnectedness is his point.

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