[Jackson Pollock] Is Now A Robot

Even though abstract expressionism died out several decades ago, robots are still chugging along dripping nihilistic pigment onto a cold, uncaring canvas. [Liat] and [Assaf] created a robot named The Originals Factory to create paintings in the style of abstract expressionism, a style of painting that is arguably best represented by [Jackson Pollock] and his ‘drip paintings.’

The build is surprisingly simple – there are four containers filled with C,M,Y, and K pigments. Pumps transport these paints to a print head mounted on an aluminum rail above a canvas. The software portion of the build is rather interesting. Instead of pixels, the image is rendered in ‘vixels’ – vertical lines of a specific length and color. Although we don’t see any examples of more precise work, [Liat] tells us The Originals Factory can be used to plot graphs on the canvas.

Check out a video of The Originals Factory squirting paint down a canvas after the break.


20 thoughts on “[Jackson Pollock] Is Now A Robot

    1. Abstractly, yes.

      Actually, there was a robotic artist in the 70s that drew figures as defined by rules of aesthetics that were programmed into it. The name of the artist/robot eludes me at this time, but I do remember that the robot drew the figures and the artist colored them in. There was a fairly popular exhibition, iirc.

      There is one field that robots will never gain the upper hand, though: the po-mo speak that describes art.

      1. That’s not expression though, that’s just carrying out instructions.

        Not that I think art or human consciousness is this ineffable thing, I just think there’s some basic ideas of expression that clearly don’t apply to machines, or even people really, depending.

        If I told you to draw me a circle with a 1 inch diameter, the level of personal expression on your part is fairly minimal.

      2. Jackson Pollock may have come to define the movement, but this robot paints nothing like Jackson Pollock.

        There isn’t a single painting of his that’s nothing but vertical lines.

      3. @Renee:

        The robot I’m talking about wasn’t programmed to draw an exact image, with a 6-inch-tall figure at (1200,800), etc… We call that a “printer.”

        Just like students just out of art school, the robot had a library of different figures and had a set of heuristics for the rules of aesthetics, composition, and form. If you judge the robot and an art student _only the finished work_, it would be hard, if not impossible, to define either work as art or not art.

        Yeah, this is getting into philosophical territory. That might say a lot about the intractability of generating po-mo language on a computer, i.e. the purpose of an artist is to comment on their own art. /just a thought

        And about the vertical lines: this build could have used a few squashed cockroaches.

      4. I gathered that’s what you meant, but to me, that’s no different than simple instructions as I’m extremely analytical.

        As an artist and analytic philosopher, I reject pomo art speak (postmodernism) and I tend to demystify art.

        Things like the association of golden ratios to aesthetics and fractal dimensions of 1.3 and 1.7 being associated with pleasing imagery in seemingly chaotic patterns are all valuable data that could be programmed into a computer or designed into a physical system.

        If you know the algorithm, you can implement it in many different ways. Which is really just what art education is, to a degree.

        In terms of robots making “art,” I think it comes down to whether or not aesthetic imagery counts as art in itself. If so then sure, robots are making art.

        If not, and art is really about intention of artists, then that depends on how much influence you count the artist who made the machine has. How much credit does the machine get?

        In the end I don’t think it’s that damning to art or anything if machines can make art, nor do I see art as some ancient and protected practice.

        In the end, I guess I just care only to a certain degree, the rest seems overly academic.

      5. The artist you’re probably thinking of is Harold Cohen, whose software AARON is responsible for some rather remarkable paintings. Harold has a website: http://www.aaronshome.com/aaron/index.html

        The painting style of this robot is closer to Morris Louis. He and Pollock were both Color Field painters, though. An example of Louis’ style is on his wikipedia page:

        There’s a long history of computers/electronics and art, going back to about 1950 (Ben Laposky’s started making his “oscillons” around then), from both sides of the fence: artists using computers/electronics, engineers producing art and art-like works.

        It’s a bit dated, but you may want to look for a copy of Cynthia Goodman’s Digital Visions: Computers and Art. There are a lot of good examples of artists working in the electronic medium… and more than a few examples of engineers producing garbage.

  1. Abstract expressionism died out because the CIA stopped funding the movement. Ex CIA have confirmed this within the last year or so. This seems far more efficient than propping up a bunch drunk artists fleeing the war at the time.

      1. hmm good point. honestly though, i was just going to believe it cause conspiracies or near conspiracies are so damn entertaining that people should rarely question them.

        but wanting to dig deeper, i found this book has some info about it. “The Cultural Cold War—The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters”

        again though, i was already convinced at “… the CIA stopped funding” so i didn’t read the book. just the title, which was good enough for me to reaffirm my initial belief.

    1. Pretty interesting read but the movement didn’t die out because of lack of funding.

      Even that article admits that the thrust of the influence came about in 1958, when “The New American Painting” traveling exhibit was launched.

      By that point Pollock was dead and the other major artists had already moved on to color field, hard-edge and other post-abstract expressionism work. Considering that the movement had it’s beginnings decades before, it’s not surprising that artists moved on, that’s just how art works.

      The art critic Harold Rosenberg said of the traveling exhibit: “Today it is felt that a new art mode is long overdue, if for no other reason than the present avant-garde has been with us for fifteen years…”

      1. I bet this art bot could use a hard drive platter and start whipping the color too.
        I just like jabbing at the government for failure. Nothing against the artists(although not my taste).

  2. Pollock’s work has been found to be highly fractal in nature (details within details).
    Those of you lucky enough to have one in a public gallery nearby should go and stand in front of it… they’re awesome in a way you can’t appreciate from a photo.

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