Generating Art Through Science, Technology, and Engineering

Since the turn of the twentieth century, innovations in architecture, design, photography, video, digital graphics, printing, and computation have predicted comparable developments and applications in the visual arts. Artists have been close to the forefront of technological advancements from the utopian industrial design projects and modernist architecture created at the German Bauhaus art school, to the twenty-first-century animations, light projections, and engineering feats included on this tour. The works spring, each in their own way, from the Conceptual art of the 1960s and ‘70s. Sol LeWitt was a pioneer of this style, in which artists moving away from the creation of traditional painting and sculpture minimized expressiveness and emphasized objectivity by using systems and processes that would generate works of art. Despite differences in the appearance of Landmarks works by Monika Bravo, Ben Rubin, and Jennifer Steinkamp, each contains software algorithms that generate and determine the flow of information through data visualizations, text-pattern recognition, and abstract aquatic imagery, respectively. Casey Reas’ A Mathematical Theory of Communication, a wall-size inkjet print mural, is also generated digitally, using heavily processed photographic imagery as its source material.

For centuries sculptors worked on materials by hand, molding and modeling clay, or carving marble or wood with a hammer and chisel. In contrast to the monuments of previous eras, the medium of sculpture has more recently expanded, becoming architectural in scale, and immersive in experience. To realize works of increasing scale and complexity, sculptors have employed industrial machines and materials in the creation of their work. Mark di Suvero rigs metal beams and hoists them into the air with a crane to see how the parts will best relate. The seventy boats that comprise Nancy Rubins’ Monochrome for Austin are suspended in tension through a network of steel cables in a system engineered by the artist and her team of technicians. The Color Inside by James Turrell and C-010106 by Sarah Oppenheimer are both installed as part of an architectural structure. Though both works have a spare, minimal design, they are the products of complex engineering feats.