Machine Art, +GRAPH explores the deep historical connection between coding and drawing

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Machine Art, +GRAPH explores the deep historical connection between coding and drawing
Licia He, Fictional Lullaby artwork and plotter progress shot.

NEW YORK, NY.- Feral File announces the +GRAPH, artist-made generative software creating physical works, curated by Casey Reas.

Two years ago –GRAPH became an iconic Feral File exhibition, marking the exemplary artists that Feral File exhibits and the experimental nature of this new endeavor. Today, that early exhibition has evolved into +GRAPH, which, like its predecessor, explores the deep historical connection between coding and drawing and brings together artists who engage with both.

On display are generative art NFTs, but the first collector of each in the series will receive the corresponding plotter drawing created in the artist’s studio. Each NFT includes millions of other images beyond the primary image for each in the series. The NFT and the plotter drawing aren’t linked together; the NFT can continue to be collected on a secondary market without the drawing. The image you see on the main artwork page on Feral File is the plotter drawing for #1/30. Because the artists are using a range of papers and inks, the software and physical drawings are delightfully different.

Each artist in +GRAPH has created generative software capable of making limitless new drawings and selected 30 of these variations to render as physical works. Five artists from the original exhibition — Iskra Velitchkova, Licia He, Aleksandra Jovanić, Julien Gachadoat, and James Merrill — are back for +GRAPH, and we’re thrilled to welcome the addition of Joanie Lemercier. These six artists all share a love of working with visual systems, writing code, and transforming how the code is rendered through drawing machines. Every drawing in this exhibition is a 1/1 artwork, meaning only one will ever be created.

Along with each of these unique drawings, there are millions of other compositions that are embedded in the original code. The work in +GRAPH strongly references the history of generative art.

Today, we most often experience generative art on screens and projectors of all sizes. If the work is transformed into a “physical,” it’s usually as a digital print and most often an inkjet print (a.k.a archival pigment print.) Sixty years ago, when generative art created with code was first evolving, color screens and printing weren’t options, and the majority of work was created and experienced as physical drawings produced with a machine called a “plotter.” A plotter is a physical drawing machine that holds a pen or other drawing tool and physically moves it across a sheet of paper.

Over the years, plotters evolved from massive room-sized machines to objects that are small enough and accessible enough for artists to bring them into their studios. All of the plotter drawings are produced with great care by the artists in their own studios. Because they have been made with plotter machines, the drawings created for Feral File are a very different kind of physical artifact from a digital print. A plotter drawing can use a wide range of different paints, inks, and drawing tools. A plotter machine can draw onto a larger range of papers than a digital print.

The artists in this group are pushing this ptactice into new territory. They are using papers of all textures and pigmentation. They have tested and use specialized inks and hybrid mixtures of watercolors and acrylic paint. Licia He, for example, uses sixteen separate colors for each drawing. Her custom software moves a brush from the paint and dips it in, then moves the brush to the paper to make a mark and back to saturate the brush with color again. Each drawing takes about 20 hours to render; they are precious physical objects. Licia has been developing these tools for years and is pushing them to new levels.

This exhibit reveals a commitment to code, drawing, and materials, but each approaches it in a singular way. Licia is creating a mood and emotion through compositions of color and form. Aleksandra Jovanić is reacting to her lived experience in Belgrade, to the feeling of moving throughout the city. James is deep into simulation and exploring that through deconstructing geometry.

Joanie is focusing on climate science and the changes to his environment through rendering fragments of clouds. Julian is engaging with ideas of artificial life and rendering the traces of unfolding simulated ecologies. Iskra works with minimal geometry through laying and transparency to construct images that lead toward introspection.

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