In 1863, Paris hosted the Salon de Paris — the time and place wherein a momentous occasion in art history occurred. Helmed by the Academy of Fine Arts and widely considered the most important art event in the world, The Salon de Paris rejected many artists of note rather than include them in the show. The rejected were, by and large, pioneers of a style using bright, expressive techniques that didn’t resemble traditional, classical paintings.
Amongst their number were Paul Cézanne and Édouard Manet, who, in reply, held an event of their own called the Salon des Refusès to showcase their innovative style. Though unorthodox at the time, we have come to know this style as Impressionism, an art form now recognized — without debate — as fine art.
The Impressionists received pushback primarily because their style did not use the colors, brushstrokes, and forms that conveyed true-to-life realist depictions as had been customary in fine art. In a way, the generative artists of today find themselves situated similarly to the Impressionists of 1863. They, too, are rebels exploring a new course because their medium relies on techniques not previously used in fine art. The use of code rather than the paintbrush presents the question of whether generative work belongs in the annals of celebrated art.
impossible cathedrals by pepe__xyz (now EDG) positions itself at the forefront of this evolving and ever-present question about what constitutes fine art. A collection of 420 iterations, each output contains a cathedral stitched together by impossible arches. As pepe notes, Parisian cathedrals were “some of the favorite subjects of the impressionists.” Moreover, like Impressionist artworks themselves, impossible cathedrals depict non-realist scenes reflecting their subject's feeling rather than form.
Each cathedral uses soft, expressive colors and techniques to convey an aura, mood, and trace of the subject, leaving the observer with an unavoidable subtext: you are viewing a computer-generated impression rendered solely through the use of code. Thus, the code is no different than a brushstroke set to canvas, and the generative artist is no different than an impressionist, cubist, surrealist, or old master.
Can impossible cathedrals find their place alongside other pieces of traditional fine art? When left with this question, perhaps it’s best not to draw a conclusion and instead realize that when one asks whether something is art, then it most likely is.