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Exhibition by pioneer of digital art Manfred Mohr opens at bitforms gallery
Drawing demonstration by Manfred Mohr at ARC - Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Using the Benson plotter and a digital (rather than analog) computer, May 11, 1971. Photo: Rainer Mürle. Courtesy bitforms gallery nyc.
NEW YORK, NY.- It was May 11, 1971 when the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris opened the influential exhibition “Computer Graphics - Une Esthétique Programmée”. A solo exhibition by Manfred Mohr, it featured the first display in a museum of works entirely calculated and drawn by a digital (rather than analog) computer. Revolutionary for its time, these drawings were more than mere curiosities – they signaled a new era of image creation, setting in motion a trajectory of modernism and information aesthetics.

Using Manfred Mohr’s work as a touchstone, "1964-2011, Réflexions sur une Esthétique Programmée" reveals, through his art work, a critical period of development in media arts. It examines shifting perspectives in art and the working methods that made the visual conversation of information aesthetics possible. How the computer emerged as a tool for art, results from its capacity for handling systems of high complexity, beyond our normal abilities.

Discovering the theoretical writings of the German philosopher Max Bense in the early 1960’s, Mohr was fascinated by the idea of a programmed aesthetic, which coincided with his strong interest in designing electronic sound devices and using scientific imagery in his paintings. Mohr studied in Germany and in Paris at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, and in 1968 he was a founding member of the seminar 'Art et Informatique' at the University of Vincennes. Further influenced by the French composer Pierre Barbaud who was using a computer to compose music, Mohr started writing in the FORTRAN programming language to create concrete compositions that he executed as ink drawings on paper with a plotter in 1969.

Marked by the exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Mohr’s work is an important bridge between handmade manipulations and machine-calculated structures in art. His demonstrated interest in process, language and line texture are revealed in early abstract painted works, made prior to his discovery of the computer as a tool for art. Mohr’s rhythmic, and later temporal, compositions are also influenced by his activities as a jazz musician.

This exhibition was organized by Laura Blereau

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