Chris Coy: Reverse Lorax

March 1 - April 4, 2018

COUNTY is pleased to present Reverse Lorax, a solo exhibition by Chris Coy featuring a new series of oil paintings co-created with an Artificial Intelligence program. Coy filters eighteenth-century art through twenty-first century technological processes to make unpredictable, uncontrollable, undreamed-of artworks for our increasingly complex, networked world.

For Reverse Lorax’s Transfermaster-C series, Coy employed an Artificial Intelligence program, similar to Google’s DeepDream system, to see, interpret, and represent the world as Rococo artists once did. By feeding it a “decadent diet” of Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher images, the program transformed everything it saw into something lighter, richer, more playful, and more luxurious. Coy then instructed the program to transfer the Rococo style onto Francisco Goya’s Disasters of War etchings, which are some of the darkest and most disturbing images in the history of art, the absolute antithesis of “light and playful.” The improbable art-historical mash-ups that Coy’s style transfer system produced are both beautiful and troubling. Rendered by computers but later hand-painted in oil, the Transfermaster-C paintings are surreal abstractions with minds of their own. Biomorphic landforms of butterscotch syrup, peach, and hot fudge melt into whipped cream skies. “They may look as light and fluffy as cotton candy,” Coy warns, “but they’re the heaviest cotton candy you’ll ever eat.” As delicious as they are monstrous, Coy’s style transfer paintings celebrate the “happy accidents” that Artificial Intelligence generates while reminding us of its catastrophic potential. AI can be used to enhance our perception of reality or to distort it beyond human recognition.

Meanwhile, the frolicsome lovers and lush gardens of Fragonard’s Rococo masterpiece Happy Accidents of the Swing have been rendered as ambient occlusion passes beneath a perfect cyan sky in Coy’s After Nature series. These paintings present Fragonard’s swing scene from multiple perspectives, pulling the Rococo forward into the virtual and tethering the frivolity of Fragonard’s world to our own.  

Chris Coy is a leading contemporary artist and filmmaker of the Post-Internet generation who lives and works between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He rose to prominence in 2007 when he was featured in Unmonumental, the New Museum in New York’s inaugural exhibition at their current Bowery location. Recent exhibitions include Anat Ebgi (Los Angeles), Johan Berggren (Malmö, Sweden), and Michael Thibault (Los Angeles). Coy’s work has also been featured in numerous international art fairs and festivals, including NADA New York, NADA Miami Beach, Art Toronto, EXPO Chicago, Art Los Angeles Contemporary, UNTITLED San Francisco, Sundance Film Festival, and Moscow International Biennale for Young Art. Reverse Lorax is his first exhibition at COUNTY.