Zack Davis & Rebecca Friedman
February 25 - April 8, 2017
An orange in the corner elongates and moves up the wall. A painting splinters and spreads across the room. Mercury condenses on the ceiling and droops towards the floor. Two grey monuments flex in balanced composition. A sculpture burns without being consumed.
These scenes are delivered whole, without explanation, by a neural network trained on a quarter-million photographs of art exhibitions. The network produces images that mimic the original data, not as averages, but as plausible members of the training set. Its realm of possible images can be traversed as a space, showing smooth transformations between scenes.
The logic extracted by the network approaches the precise difference between a random array of pixels and an image. This distinction involves a hierarchy of edges, textures, forms, and compositions—the basic components of visual legibility. In this case, the hierarchy is further specified by exhibition practices, and paradoxically undermined by the fact that a detail of a painting bears as much weight in the learning process as a well-lit gallery. As a result, the network shows amorphous, dreamlike scenes, but also well-defined objects that seem to offer clear instructions for actualization.
Traversing the space of the network unfolds the logic of images as behaviors, detectable only en masse. In other words, images accumulate to the point where they become rules, and rules accumulate to the point where they act materially. The works in this show can be thought of as different instances of a single, shape-shifting substance, whose behaviors are the only context for any individual object: what it was, how it acts, and what it might become.
When a painting behaves like a chameleon, transforming in patches or shedding its skin, it reveals a proliferation of routes from one point to another in image space. These routes appear as holes or markings in its surface, which suggest and give way to future contours. In this way, abstraction becomes a vehicle for flexibility while creating a crisis of choice. As in a game of exquisite corpse, interpreting and extending these marks is both the problem and the point.
Zack Davis (b. 1985, Brooklyn, NY) works with a range of techniques to investigate the formal and sensational qualities of thought. His work was most recently shown at GCA Gallery in Brooklyn, NY and Bas Fisher Invitational in Miami, FL. He was a founding member of Appendix Project Space in Portland, OR, and exhibited in the 2014 Portland Biennial.
Rebecca Friedman (b. 1994, Los Angeles, CA) is an artist and curator based in New York. Her practice explores the emergence of composition in formal and energetic arrangements. Her work has recently been exhibited at Bug in Brooklyn, NY and Poppy’s in Sacramento, CA. She recently curated A Pattern Withdrawn at American Medium in Brooklyn, NY.