The History of Digital Art for Crypto Explorers

60s–70s Part II: Pioneers of Computer Art

Artists Who Made an Impact in the History of Digital Art

The 1960s and 1970s play a significant role in the history of digital art. During that time, art started to intersect with technology and artists began experimenting with computers, often in collaboration with engineers. While not a comprehensive list of artists, this post aims to shed light on some of those who left a stong impact in the development of digital art, including Lillian Schwartz, Vera Molnár and Manfred Mohr.


DESMOND PAUL HENRY

Desmond Paul Henry (1921-2004) is one of the early British pioneers of computer art in the 1960s. He is renowned for having constructed three mechanical drawing machines from bombsight analogue computers, which were used by fighter pilots during World War II. Henry's machine-generated effects present complex abstract and curvilinear graphics and are considered early examples of computer graphics.

Desmond Paul Henry, #620, 1962, Source: Kate Vass Galeries [1]
Desmond Paul Henry, #620, 1962, Source: Kate Vass Galeries [1]
Desmond Paul Henry, #824, 1963, Source: Kate Vass Galeries [2]
Desmond Paul Henry, #824, 1963, Source: Kate Vass Galeries [2]
LILLIAN SCHWARTZ

Lillian Schwartz (b.1927) is an American artist, regarded as a pioneer in computer art. She was a member of the collective Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) in the 1960s and collaborated with engineers on different projects. She brought significant innovations to the field of computer art during the 1960s and 1970s and contributed to the developments of graphics, film, video, 2D/3D animation and special effects.

Lillian Schwartz and Kenneth C. Knowlton, Pixillation, 1970, Source: Digital Art Archive, Copyright © 1970, Lillian F. Schwartz and Kenneth C. Knowlton [3]
Lillian Schwartz and Kenneth C. Knowlton, Pixillation, 1970, Source: Digital Art Archive, Copyright © 1970, Lillian F. Schwartz and Kenneth C. Knowlton [3]
Lillian Schwartz, Charms, 1970, Source: Artsy, Magenta Plains New York [4]
Lillian Schwartz, Charms, 1970, Source: Artsy, Magenta Plains New York [4]
PAUL BROWN

Paul Brown (b.1947) is an Anglo-Australian artist, writer and educator who has been focussing on art, science and technology since the 1960s and on computational & generative art since the 1970s. Between 1977 and 1979 he studied at the Slade School of Art in London, one of the few institutions which fully incorporated the use of computers into art during the 1970s. He is an internationally recognised artist.

Paul Brown, Untitled Computer Assisted Drawing, 1975, Plotter drawing, Given by the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Patric Prince, Copyright © Victoria and Albert Museum, London [5]
Paul Brown, Untitled Computer Assisted Drawing, 1975, Plotter drawing, Given by the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Patric Prince, Copyright © Victoria and Albert Museum, London [5]
Paul Brown, The Labyrinth of the Law, original grate visualisation digital image, Source: paul-brown.com,  Copyright © Paul Brown [6]
Paul Brown, The Labyrinth of the Law, original grate visualisation digital image, Source: paul-brown.com, Copyright © Paul Brown [6]
VERA MOLNÁR

Vera Molnár (b. 1924) is a French artist of Hungarian origin. She is regarded as one of the pioneers of computer and algorithmic arts. In the 1960s she started creating algorithmic paintings with simple geometrical forms and co-founded the group “Art et Informatique” in 1967, investigating the intersection between art and computing. As explained in "Digital Art: Painting with Pixels" by Ron Miller, Vera Molnár believed that:

Without the aid of a computer, it would not be possible to materialize quite so faithfully an image that previously existed only in the artist's mind. This may sound paradoxical, but the machine, which is thought to be cold and inhuman, can help to realize what is most subjective, unattainable, and profound in a human being.

Vera Molnár
Vera Molnár, A la recherche de Paul Klee, 1970, Ink on Paper, Collection Franc Bretagne, Copyright © ADAGP, Paris, Credit photo Hervé Beurel [7]
Vera Molnár, A la recherche de Paul Klee, 1970, Ink on Paper, Collection Franc Bretagne, Copyright © ADAGP, Paris, Credit photo Hervé Beurel [7]
Vera Molnár, Interruptions, 1968/69, Source: Artnome, Copyright © Vera Molnár [8]
Vera Molnár, Interruptions, 1968/69, Source: Artnome, Copyright © Vera Molnár [8]
ROBERT W. MALLARY

Robert W. Mallary (1917-1997) was an American artist, renowned mostly for his Neo-Dada, “junk art” sculptures, which he created from different materials and urban rubbish during the 1950s and 1960s. He is also remembered for his major contributions to computer art and for having created one of the first sculptures generated by computer in 1968.

Robert W. Mallary, Quad 1, Computer-designed sculpture, 1968, Source: Wikipedia, Copyright © Robert Mallary - Estate of Robert Mallary [9]
Robert W. Mallary, Quad 1, Computer-designed sculpture, 1968, Source: Wikipedia, Copyright © Robert Mallary - Estate of Robert Mallary [9]
Robert W. Mallary, 3 colour plotter graphic, 1972, computer drawing, Source: Telegraph [10]
Robert W. Mallary, 3 colour plotter graphic, 1972, computer drawing, Source: Telegraph [10]
MANFRED MOHR

Manfred Mohr (b. 1938) is a German artist regarded as one of the pioneers of digital art. Initially an action painter and a jazz saxophonist, he turned to computer art in the late 1960s. He transposed the rhythm, energy and sense of improvisation gained from making music to creating algorithmic art. He has been based in New York since 1981.

Manfred Mohr, P-055. Random Circuit, 1970, computer-generated drawing, Source: ZKM | Center for Art and Media © Manfred Mohr; Photo © ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Photo: Franz J. Wamhof [11]
Manfred Mohr, P-055. Random Circuit, 1970, computer-generated drawing, Source: ZKM | Center for Art and Media © Manfred Mohr; Photo © ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Photo: Franz J. Wamhof [11]
Manfred Mohr, Cubic Limit, 1973–1974, Digital transfer of 16mm film, Source: Artsy, bitforms gallery New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco [12]
Manfred Mohr, Cubic Limit, 1973–1974, Digital transfer of 16mm film, Source: Artsy, bitforms gallery New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco [12]

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

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*This article is for non-profit educational purposes. We do not represent or work with any of the featured artists. The copyright of all images belong to their authors. We aim to contribute to the research in the field of digital art and hope our readers will find this article beneficial to their learning.

07 Jun 20
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