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Reception: Sunday, November 8, 6 – 8 PM
Gallery Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM & Sunday 12 – 6 PM
Manfred Mohr has been producing paintings, drawings, wall reliefs, and films using computers and algorithms since 1968. His fifth solo show at bitforms gallery, Artificiata II includes works from this new series alongside historic works, some of which have never been exhibited.
A leader in software-based and generative art, Mohr’s singular body of work made with computers spans nearly five decades. Trained as both a jazz musician and fine artist, Mohr’s discovery of German philosopher Max Bense’s writing on information aesthetics in the early 1960s radically transformed his artistic thinking. His abstract expressionist work shifted to geometric abstraction, a profound change in an artistic climate that reproached rationality. Still, Mohr sought to achieve the pairing of rationality and expressiveness he first recognized in music: Though musical notation is logical and rule-based, music itself is purely abstract in its form.
Upon meeting French computer musician and composer Pierre Barbaud in 1967, Mohr was introduced to algorithmic music. Fundamentally, an algorithm is a set of rules, and Mohr realized that he could invent a set of rules within his artistic practice. Using software as his medium, Mohr created a visual language based on the cube: if software is sheet music, the cube is its notation. While abstraction had previously been achieved through geometry or gestural mark-making, Mohr’s instruction-based conceptual work yields surprising results within a parametric framework. Already by 1969, Mohr had programmed his first computer drawings, and by 1971, he had a solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris where he demonstrated his process. First executed as plotter ink drawings, Mohr’s oeuvre now consists of paintings, drawings, artist books, sculptures, films, and computer animations.
Also in 1969, Mohr published his first visual artist book, Artificiata I (Edition Agentzia, Paris), comprising his last artwork drawn by hand. At the time, he proposed to create a second Artificiata book based on algorithms, calculated and drawn by a computer. Around 2012, Mohr’s visual research developed a strong relationship to the visual structure of musical scores, similar to the Artificiata of 1969. He decided to call his new body of work Artificiata II, and at the same time created a visual book with the same title. Published in 2014, Artificiata II (OEI Editör, Stockholm) is the visual poetry book of computer drawings, exactly as Mohr had imagined it forty-four years earlier.
Given the breadth of this exhibition, bitforms gallery has produced a document available online, detailing the algorithms used to generate each work or phase of works on display. An exhibition catalogue with the most recent works from Mohr’s Artificiata II phase—including Baseline, Projections and Dimensions, Parity, and Traces—has also been published.
Manfred Mohr is a leader within the field of software-based art. Co-founder of the “Art et Informatique” seminar in 1968 at Vincennes University in Paris, he discovered Professor Max Bense’s writing on information aesthetics in the early 1960s. These texts radically changed Mohr’s artistic thinking, and within a few years, his art transformed from abstract expressionism to computer-generated algorithmic geometry. Encouraged by the computer music composer Pierre Barbaud, whom he met in 1967, Mohr programmed his first computer drawings in 1969. His first major museum exhibition, Une esthétique programmée, took place in 1971 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. It has since become known historically as the first solo show in a museum of works entirely calculated and drawn by a digital computer. During the exhibition, Mohr demonstrated his process of drawing his computer-generated imagery using a Benson flatbed plotter for the first time in public. Mohr’s pieces have been based on the logical structure of cubes and hypercubes—including the lines, planes, and relationships among them—since 1973.
Recently the subject of retrospective at ZKM, Karlsruhe, Mohr’s work is collected by the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Joseph Albers Museum, Bottrop; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art; Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen; Kunstmuseum Stuttgart; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museum Kulturspeicher, Würzburg; Kunsthalle Bremen; Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg; Daimler Contemporary, Berlin; Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal; McCrory Collection, New York; and Esther Grether Collection, Basel. Solo exhibitions and retrospectives of his work include ARC – Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Art Basel, Switzerland; Joseph Albers Museum, Bottrop; Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen; Museum for Concrete Art, Ingolstadt; Kunsthalle Bremen; Museum im Kulturspeicher, Würzburg; and Grazyna Kulczyk Foundation, Poznan. Mohr’s work has also been part of group exhibitions at Fundacion Banco Santander, Madrid; ZKM, Karlsruhe; MoMA, New York ; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum Ritter, Waldenbuch; Museo Nacional Centro de Reina Sofia, Madrid; MoCA, Los Angeles; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Montréal; Muzeum Sztuki Lodz, Poland; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; MoMA PS1, New York; Leo Castelli Gallery, New York; and Galerie Paul Facchetti, both in Paris and Zürich. His work will be included in the forthcoming exhibition Electronic Superhighway at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, opening in January 2016.
Mohr is the recipient of an ACM SIGGRAPH Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art; Golden Nica from Ars Electronica; the Camille Graesser-Preis, Zurich; D.velop Digital Art Award; and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship.