<em>P-142h (Negative Field Syntax)</em>

Manfred Mohr
P-142h (Negative Field Syntax), 1973
Plotter drawing ink on paper
21.25 x 21.25 in / 54 x 54 cm

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 in early abstract painted works, prior to his discovery of the computer as a tool for art. This particular drawing is part of Mohr’s early algorithmic work phase (1969-72, following an interest in hard edge painting) which emphasized a “formalism” of the software medium: logical and automatic construction of pictures. In this work phase, the left-to-right linear composition is also influenced by Mohr’s observation of the way a computer-controlled drawing machine (the Benson plotter) drags ink across the paper, as if it were written in a script.

Typical of his early algorithmic work, this piece links line to language, process and conceptual systems. Mohr calculated the image using a program that he authored in the FORTRAN language. With a choice of different line characteristics, an alphabet of randomly generated elements is created.

More about the algorithm:
Lines with acute angles represent the numbers 0-9, and lines with obtuse angles represent the letters of the alphabet A-Z. When a letter adjoins a number, a horizontal thick line is added between them. The space between the line is thus formed and a lower base horizontal line is filled in with parallel vertical lines. In P-142 letters and numbers are chosen randomly, thus creating a random text.


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