TIFFANY CALVERT: ADVERSARIAL NATURE
Tinney Contemporary / 237 Rep John Lewis Way N. April 22 - June 3rd
Tinney Contemporary is pleased to present Adversarial Nature, featuring new works by Tiffany Calvert. The exhibition will be on display from April 22 to June 3, 2023. The opening reception will be held on May 6, 2023, from 2–8 PM in conjunction with the First Saturday Downtown Art Crawl.
Tiffany Calvert applies gestural interruptions in oil paint to digital prints of still life imagery generated by artificial intelligence. Using a StyleGAN (Generative Adversarial Network) trained on a dataset of Dutch floral paintings, Calvert generates novel compositions that become the foundation for orchestrated, painterly interventions which affect a purposeful confusion between the synthesized image and traces of the artist’s own hand.
Calvert’s prescient reengagement of her subject matter via avant-garde technology highlights a uniquely contemporary set of concerns. The genesis of Dutch floral painting coincided with 17th century “Tulipomania,” ––during which the prices of tulip bulbs skyrocketed and eventually collapsed, an early example of a speculative financial bubble with clear present-day analogues. In Calvert’s words, the flowers signify both “botanical fantasy” and “economic mirage.”
GANs pair two opposing programs (a generator and a discriminator) to recombine variables from a given dataset and to referee which of these recombinant images are “fakes.” The resulting image-aggregate “fools” the discriminating network. At first glance, these images align with a vernacular conception of art historical painting. It’s only upon closer inspection that the aberrances emerge: the uncanny abstraction that comes as an AI attempts to recreate a complex petal structure, or tries to distinguish between orange tulips and oranges. This embrace of generative technology is a disavowal of prevailing systems of value, positioning the work in the space between the ones and zeros of an optimized, totalizing algorithm.
Using a combination of deliberate brushstrokes in colors sourced from the digital image and vinyl masks created from vector drawings, Calvert complicates the shallow, diagrammatic space of the still life. This process draws simultaneous reference to the hyper-foregrounded depth of field of Dutch floral painting and to cubism’s radical break with traditional, linear perspective.
The work’s most profound resonance is with modernism’s antecedent: a dispersed and accelerated economy of digital images—overlapping in the illusory depth of LED screens. It’s an economy in which production and consumption are blurred, in which virality refers to the image’s ability to self-replicate and spread infinitely, and in which precarity is inherent to the circulatory apparatus.