Guided Visit: SVA’s Bruce Wands on Algorithmic Artist Manfred Mohr

November 20, 2013

Bruce Wands, chair of the MFA Computer Art Department and author of Art of the Digital Age (Thames & Hudson, 2007) talks about Manfred Mohr’s P1611_24 (pigment ink on canvas, 2012), on view in “The American Algorists: Linear Sublime” through November 27 at the SVA Flatiron Gallery, 133/141 West 21st Street.

manfred425How is this work related to the artist’s longstanding interest in the cube?
Manfred was originally a jazz musician and abstract expressionist. He discovered algorithmic art in the late 1960s. He was looking for a visual language, similar to the musical language he knew. In 1972, Manfred began producing sequential drawings and started working on the fixed structure of a cube. He began working on the 4-D hypercube in 1977 and has continued this work to the present day.

You have a long history with digital art, but for someone without that background, what should they look for in a work like this?
Art is art, no matter what the medium. The strength of Manfred’s work lies in the unique combination of lines, shapes and colors.

Mohr’s drawings and works on canvas are the result of a generative process. Can you explain?
His latest software “Artificiata II” creates digital paintings and animations that are based on the 11th to 13th dimensional hypercube and uses diagonal paths as graphic elements. The animation algorithm contains random variations of speed and suites of stills adding a musical rhythm to this work.

Mohr is one of four artists working with algorithms included in this exhibition. For people not familiar with them, what are some of the everyday uses for algorithms?
Algorithms are step-by-step procedures based on a set of rules. The simplest example is a cooking recipe. Most algorithms are mathematical procedures used in computing data.

How do you situate this work in relation to geometric abstraction, as continued to be practiced by contemporary painters?
The images and animation Manfred Mohr produces are the result of instructions given to the computer via algorithms. In this sense, they are mathematically based, logical, and the result of a programmed set of instructions. While some artists working in geometric abstraction do use mathematical concepts in their work, others do not. Manfred’s work may fall under this category, but it is more accurately described as algorithmic art.

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