Drawing with Code: Works from the Anne and Michael Spalter Collection

Drawing with Code: Works from the Anne and Michael Spalter Collection, Mohr
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On View Jan 29, 2011 - Apr 24, 2011
Exhibition Location: Foster Galleries

Drawing with Code brings together a selection of computer-generated art by the form's earliest and most important practitioners from the 1950s to today. The Providence-based collection of Anne and Michael Spalter is one of the largest and most important of its kind in the U.S. and shines a new light onto a darkened corner of the art historical record.

In our current digital environment when just about everyone holds the processing power of a full computer in their pocket, it is difficult to remember a time when computer technology was not involved in every aspect of our lives. In the arts—visual, cinematic, musical, dance, and theater—the computer has become not only an accepted, but in many cases, an intrinsic tool for artistic expression. The artists featured in Drawing with Code emerged in the early computer-era when the technology was rudimentary by current standards and its capabilities rarely extended beyond the world of computation. Merging their interests in art and coding, these practitioners came to be known as "Algorists," artists who employed original algorithms to create images. In addition to works on paper, Drawing with Code presents the work of two filmmakers, Lillian Schwartz and Stan VanDerBeek, who were brought into Bell Labs Research by Kenneth Knowlton to make some of the first computer art animations. These six animations were collaborations using Knowlton's BEFLIX (Bell Flicks) programming language for bitmap computer-produced movies.

The artists in Drawing with Code represent some of the earliest innovations in computer-generated art from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, pioneering a new form of collaboration between technology and art that pushed the boundaries of both.

Featured artists: Yoshiyuki Abe, Manuel Barbadillo, Jean-Pierre Hébert, Desmond Paul Henry, Sven Höglund / Bror Wikstörm, Sture Johannessen, Hiroshi Kawano, Kenneth Knowlton, Ben F. Laposky, Manfred Mohr, Vera Molnar, Frieder Nake, George Nees, Lillian F. Schwartz, Stan VanDerBeek, Roman Verotsko, Mark Wilson, and Edward Zajec.

This exhibition is organized by guest curator George Fifield, Director, Boston Cyberarts Inc. and is part of the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival.


Panel Discussion at MIT
Moderated by John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design.
Tuesday, March 8, 7 pm
Bartos Auditorium, MIT Campus
Join deCordova and MIT for an evening event focused on how the computer has creatively influenced both the visual and literary arts in this panel discussion. Hear from Drawing with Code curator George Fifield, exhibiting artist Mark Wilson, and writers who employ computers in their creative practice as they discuss the history behind this fascinating intersection between science and art. Held in collaboration with MIT’s Purple Blurb series, this event is co-organized by deCordova and MIT.

Artist Talks
Manfred Mohr: Saturday, February 5, 3 pm
Mark Wilson: Saturday, March 12, 3 pm

Curator Tour and Discussion
Guest Curator, George Fifield and Senior Curator, Word and Image Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, Douglas Dodds
Saturday, April 23, 3 pm

Eye Wonder Family Program
Sunday, March 6, 1–3 pm

Family Gallery Guides

Gallery Guides are available throughout the museum and provide family-friendly information about current exhibitions.

For more information about the historical relationship between computers and graphics, please see the documentary film, The Story of Computer Graphics, produced by SIGGRAPH, playing in the Wengren Room on the museum's first floor.