Digital art pioneer Manfred Mohr brings algorithmic art to Carroll / Fletcher

By Mark Sheerin | 27 November 2012
Colour photo of grey computer generated artworks on a gallery wall
Manfred Mohr, installation view at Carroll / Fletcher© All rights reserved. Courtesy Carroll / Fletcher

Exhibition preview: Manfred Mohr: one and zero, Carroll / Fletcher, London, until December 20 2012

In a 1967 experiment, subjects were given two works of art to consider. The first was by Piet Mondrian (Composition with Lines, 1917) and the second was computer generated. And 59 percent of those questioned by US engineer A Michael Noll said they preferred the piece by the early computer.

Meanwhile, as early as the 1950s, German philosopher Max Bense had began to look for mathematical rules for pleasing aesthetics, and this was to influence artist Manfred Mohr, who gave up a career as a jazz musician to paint work inspired by and eventually made by machines.

It was 1969 when he began to make automated drawings based on complex algorithms. Mohr was possibly the first and last artist to teach himself the forbidding programming language FORTRAN IV. He also got access to hardware in a Meteorological Institute in Paris, home at the time to one of the world’s most powerful computers.

The chances are Mohr was too far ahead of his time. Until now, his pioneering efforts have never been recognised in the UK with a solo show. It is sobering to think he was using printers to make art some 40 years before the recent sensation caused by Wade Guyton.

Both artists deal with a techie form of minimalism. But Guyton makes his controversial works with a more user friendly suite of technologies: Word, Photoshop and an Epson printer. Like the 21st century New Yorker, Mohr has come back to save or destroy painting, depending on which way you look at it.

  • Open 11am-7pm (6pm Saturday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @carrollfletcher.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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