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Let’s flash back to the Machine Age, the period in American history that gave us the assembly line, the first nonstop transcontinental flight, regular radio broadcasts, and the first robot capable of performing more than 20 movements. These technological advancements inspired a style of art called Precisionism, popularized by big names like Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth.
The Cult of the Machine exhibit at the de Young museum in San Francisco is a reflection of attitudes toward machines and robotics during the Machine Age, the period between the two world wars during which industrial efficiency was the reigning mantra. In an era where efficiency was seen as both beautiful and as a threat, there was an influx of art inspired by anxieties people had about the rise of industrial technology. The exhibit rehashes the “are machines a friend or foe to humans?” debate through a Precisionist lens with a thorough, possibly too thorough, collection.
Emma - Acker - Exhibit - Precisionist - Works
Curated by Emma Acker, the exhibit is predominantly Precisionist works. Precisionism is an early 20th century American modernist style that was born from artists who synthesized European cubism and futurism with the American vision of industrial, urban themes. We see smokestacks, factories, bridges and skyscrapers painted with geometric, smooth techniques.
Technologists today have expressed concern about the takeover of robotics, decline in manufacturing jobs, losing control to AIs, biased algorithms and the loss of craftsmanship to machines. Every tech company has a strategy around machine learning and AI. Venture capitalists are investing in robotics startups. There are robots designed to make pizzas. Robots that autonomously deliver goods through the last mile. Autonomous vehicles designed to replace drivers and flying cars on the horizon. Tech continues to make our world more efficient and convenient, but it’s impossible to predict whether machines will eventually help or hinder us as...
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