Early Computer Art from 1970's Bell Labs - Laurie Spiegel

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LAUNCH

"I created the following images (and many more) in 1974-1976 using a Rand Tablet and FORTRAN IV software I wrote that, at the time, I called "a drawing program". The same software would now be called "a paint program" because, in the 1980s, the word "drawing" came to be construed as refering to vector, rather than raster, image creation software."

More work by Laurie Spiegel

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Well-Written Pictures

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Chris Ashley's HTML drawings are tightly-executed formal expressions that demonstrate the beautiful things that can be made with code. Drawing on simple elements such as 90-degree angles, shadows, and gradients, Ashley writes strings of code that appear to viewers as solid images. In fact, the often maze-like circuits that snake around in these images might read as optical illusions or even futile labyrinths if one tries to see each piece's components as anything other than part of a cohesive whole. While they initially read as very formal and perhaps even rigid, seeing the HTML drawings in relation to Ashley's paintings and watercolor drawings allows viewers to realize the sense of play that can emerge from rule-based work. In fact, Ashley very precisely pushes the envelope in what might be considered coloring between the lines. The artist posts these images to his blog and has managed to overcome the frequent challenge of translating digital works into the physical realm and shows his drawings on paper and glass in galleries. At the moment, his work can be seen at San Francisco's David Cunningham Projects. - Marisa Olson


Image: Chris Ashley, La Passeggiata, 20080809, HTML, 350 x 390 pixels

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<font color="#6b6b88">G</font><font color="#cbcbd4">R</font><font color="#ededf0">A</font><font color="#d1d1d9">V</

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LAUNCH

"Due to the fact that i didn't have to write a proposal and to enumerate advanced technologies i would be using to make this piece I was completely free to make what i think is meaningful and beautiful. The pressure to be up to date with technology appears insane to me. It doesn't bring any more beauty or pleasure. Instead it creates things that are hard to understand and impossible to handle. So nobody can actually experience them beyond reading the artist's concept."

-Excerpt from must read interview about GRAVITY.

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Drawn Out Processes

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The convention of the summer show, in New York, has historically been a mixed bag. At times it's an excuse for a gallery to do something fun, restrict work hours, and chill out a bit. It also tends to be the busy season for both emerging artists and curators, with group shows dominating the docket and variably playful, political, or conceptual themes running the show. Chelsea gallery Josée Bienvenu's summer show, "microwave, six," includes seventeen emerging and mid-career artists in their annual effort to (unlike the cooking apparatus that shares its name) slow down and pay attention to artists "who commit to the obscene activity of paying attention." It's hard to say what's obscene about this act, except that it's so rarely done as to potentially render it indulgent in some people's eyes. Each of the selected artists create rather slow-cooked drawings that "document the relentless propagation of delicacy as a subversive attitude." In other words, forget the short attention spans painted by the information economy, these pieces actually manage to transmit a high level of information, even as they eschew the ephemeral forms of files and bits to take up the hard-knocked life of a work on paper. Ernesto Caivano continues his epic series of drawings about an otherworldly landscape in which a man and woman simultaneously evolve into a spaceship and a lowly earth creature. Phoebe Washburn gives us highly-systematized, if cryptic analysis of devices and histories like Gatorade Storage Tank Study. Both Alexandra Grant and Casey Jex Smith offer readings and translations of the visual qualities of language, while Jacob Dyrenforth's newspaper-style pixilated (or is it pointilated?) drawings of concert crowds speak to the age-old effort of visualists to convey the maximum amount of information in the least ...

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Math Goddess

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Despite the fact the art world is rife with gender discrimination, a situation only compounded by historic barriers thwarting women's entree to computing, the title "Grande Dame of Digital Art" is one for which a host of pioneering artists could vie. Nonetheless, Berlin gallery [DAM] believes this designation belongs to Vera Molnar, whose experimental Plotter drawings will be exhibited at the space May 30th-July 12th. Made between 1969-1990, these color and black and white geometric images were preceded by her invention, in 1959, of a "Machine Imaginaire," a surreal algorithmic generator that presaged aesthetic computing by many years. The artist was a contemporary of Paul Klee and shared in his generation's fascination with systems. However, in a witty essay entitled "1% Disorder," she made clear that there is always an open space for chaos and creativity-- not unlike what Freud called "the naval" of the dream. It is this open space that allowed her to bring a human warmth to the rigidity of the mathematical languages she admired, like her own fever dream resulting from infection by what she called the "virus of visual experimentation." - Marisa Olson


Image: Vera Molnar, (Des)Ordres ((Un)Ordnungen), 1974

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Mixing It Up at Eyebeam's MIXER

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In New York or any other busy urban nexus, it's all too easy to submit to the tyranny of rushing from one destination to another. How much more pleasant -- and artistically fruitful -- it can be to drift through one's environment, sampling its many sensory experiences at leisure. Last Saturday, at Manhattan's Eyebeam, a new media art party called MIXER offered many delights, from cerebral to bawdy, for those who took the time to explore and savor them. First launched in November last year, MIXER is the art-and-technology center's quarterly event featuring performances by acclaimed video and audio artists, as well as interactive installations inviting creative play by the attendees.



One highlight on Saturday was London-based VJ group D-Fuse's performance of "Latitude", an ambient cinematic exploration of everyday life in the rapidly developing Chinese cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. Inspired by the Situationists' notion of "la dérive" (drifting through cities in response to their emotional impacts), the piece wanders among all sorts of urban tableaux, from the mundane and intimate to the grandiose. Fragments of conversations, shots of crowds, and architectural forms such as the vein-like loops of a Shanghai overpass combine to create an evocative portrait of cities in growth.




D-Fuse, Overpass, 2007


In one stunning opening clip, we see a girl emerging onto her apartment balcony -- then the camera slowly (and vertiginously) pulls back in midair, gradually revealing the immense grids of her high-rise and the construction sites that make up her neighborhood. In another shot, kids perform a dance routine on a dull green field, their sheer numbers and the vivid blue-and-white colors of their uniforms forming a kaleidoscopic pop of energy. While many scenes of street life and urban architecture might recall U.S. cities, other footage is suffused with ...

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Signed and Numbered

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On January 18, Northwestern University's Block Museum of Art, located 15 minutes north of Chicago, will open an exhibition of major value to those with an interest in the relationship between art, technology, and design. Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of the Computer Print surveys the work of over 40 international artists who have, since the 1950s, worked with computers to make drawings and fine prints. The show emphasizes artists who have penned their own code or collaborated with engineers to create custom programs for the production of images. The very concept of "drawing" is tested in works such as Ben Laposky's and Herbert Franke's photos of electronic wave forms (here the electronics do the drawing and the artist documents it), and the tools used to make the works range from DIY printers to fancy 3D-imaging software. Artists Lane Hall and Roman Verostko combine "traditional" and digital methods in their work, while Joshua Davis and C.E.B. Reas hack software programs to produce contemporary works. The sixty pieces in this show, curated by Debora Wood and Paul Hertz, are contextualized by a complementary exhibit called Space, Color, and Motion, which presents time-based installation projects by four artists exhibited in Imaging by Numbers: Jean-Pierre Hebert, Manfred Mohr, James Paterson, and C.E.B. Reas. The museum is also presenting an ambitious slate of public events, including gallery talks, studio workshops, a screening of early computer animations and a symposium entitled "Patterns, Pixels, and Process: Discussing the History of the Computer Print". This all adds up to one remarkable program. If you can't make it to Illinois, check out the slide shows and video samples online. - Marisa Olson



Image: Tony Robbin, Drawing 53, 2004

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