Glenn Brown: Metamodernism and the Art of the Transhuman


“DeepDream is a computer vision program created by Google which uses a convolutional neural network to find and enhance patterns in images via algorithmic pareidolia, thus creating a dreamlike hallucinogenic appearance in the deliberately over-processed images.” – Wikipedia

As the human mind and body evolve, converging on new thresholds of technology we observe the cognitive processes of art. Artist Glenn Brown opened at the Des Moines Art Center this week. Immediately the first impression I got from his paintings was the striking similarities between his technique and the characteristics of Google’s DeepDream renderings.

The archetypes and dreams of Glenn Brown like many artists is what stimulates his art. The tactile involvement with the media is what inspires his technique. The question that’s asked often in science fiction circles is, “Can computers dream? And if so what would it look like”? By now society is not surprised to hear, “Yes, in some ways they do dream, they can make art and here’s what it looks like”.

Metamodern Art. Glenn Brown.
Detail from “The Shallow End”, by Glenn Brown.

This is in contrast from the works of let’s say, Jean Tinguely and Raymond Auger or any postmodernist who’s created a machine that draws or paints. Computers and robots today reference and pull data from life’s digital experiences for example to compose their own grotesque imagery. Slightly less “non-objectively” than a machine repeating the action of dipping a substrate into a vat of paint over and over again.

I could never assume to know how Glenn Brown developed his technique or the inspiration behind his imagery. I can only assume that his paintings are magnificent and reflect an eerie association to the macabre world of metamodernism. His aesthetic crosses and engages so many periods and techniques of fine art and illustration, it’s mind boggling.

Metamodern Art. Google DeepDream.I wonder what Carl Jung would have to say about the paintings of Glenn Brown. Jung describes a “collective unconscious”. Different than the “personal unconscious” that we draw from in our own personal experiences. The collective unconscious is a heavily disputed concept and the Hundredth Monkey Effect has been discredited by many. But what hasn’t been discredited to my knowledge are the similarities between the aesthetic and congruent time period to which European Chivalry and Japanese Bushido Code for example, had evolved within two separate and unconnected societies during the Medieval Ages. Two social aesthetics that while maintaining specific contrasts, still had some very recognizable similarities.

Selfie a la Google DeepDream.

We’re artists, so let’s push the concept. Let’s reach for a (not so) new narrative. If there truly is a collective unconscious, is Glenn Brown an early example of the human tapping into the post-human? Will technology and artificial intelligence generate more (artificial) thoughts and new hereditary archetypes that will merge us closer and closer to a state of Transhumanism? As the organic flesh and mind converge with the mechanical and digital and moves toward Biomechatronics and Artificial Intelligence, we are witnesses to Skynet in its infancy. Art not only mimics life, but it occasionally predicts and designs it.

There is something beautifully grotesque about a Glenn Brown painting. His application of paint defies the untrained eye. The duality of his harsh attention to fine detail within a myriad of expressive, animated waves of color is a dichotomy to behold.

The Metamodern. Art: Glenn Brown
“Star Dust”, Oil on Panel by Glenn Brown.

Metamodern Art. Glenn Brown
“The Happiness in One’s Pocket”, by Glenn Brown.

“Glenn Brown is the first one-person museum exhibition in the U.S. of this London-based artist. After opening at the Des Moines Art Center, this major survey exhibition will then travel to the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati. Well-known across the globe, Brown has exhibited widely including museum group shows in L.A. and Chicago. He was a candidate for Britain’s Turner Prize in 2000, and also participated in the 2003 Biennale di Venezia. The Art Center’s show will include approximately 25 paintings, sculptures, and prints. A fully-illustrated catalogue will accompany the project, expanding the reach of Brown’s art to even broader audiences.”
– From The Des Moines Art Center

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