Computer Generated Works on Paper

In 2007, the Block Museum showed Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of the Computer Print, an exhibition that explored the development of computer programming as a medium for artistic expression. It prompted the Block to build a collection of works from 1952 to the present by artists who use algorithmic processes to create computer prints.

Most of the artists represented in the Block collection wrote their own software or employ software designed to support algorithmic processes. Others manipulate commercially available applications in directions beyond their intended use.

The first computer artists often worked as engineers and mathematicians. By the mid- to late 1960s, the potential of the computer as a tool to make art attracted many traditionally trained artists. They taught themselves to program computers in order to have complete control over the output. Many universities, particularly those in the U.S., helped foster cross-cultural experimentation between the sciences and the arts. Computer technology grew across disciplines in the 1970s and 1980s, and artists began pushing the boundaries of what computers were capable of producing.

Artists have been able to work with greater precision as computer software and computer-interfaces evolved. Yet there are still artists who continue to write their own computer programs because they are interested in using the computer for its unique capabilities, not as a means of replacing traditional media.