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Random Numbers: Screen-Printed Generative Art [NYC Event]

Marius Watz and Jer Thorp get off the computer to dirty their hands in a more traditional way.

by Dylan Schenker
Feb 10 2011, 7:08pm

When it comes to computer- or software-based art, artists don’t often get their hands dirty with the traditional tools of the fine art trade. Generative art, being founded on logical models, is in many respects more closely aligned with mathematics, science, and engineering than other fine art practices. With this in mind, generative artist Marius Watz and data artist Jer Thorp took on the task of screen printing (by hand) their computer-based art works for the Random Number Multiples series, an ongoing art publishing extension of Christina Vassallo’s curatorial platform Random Numbers. The screen prints will be the first in the limited edition series, described as a “platform for artists to experiment with new techniques or engage with familiar ones in new ways.”

The “Arc” series that Watz chose for the project are described as “pseudo-random compositions of radial shapes, subtly distorted by a 3D surface that lends the image a strong focal point and sense of movement.”

Marius Watz’s Arcs04-01

They are lively volcanoes of color bursting from an empty center, flowing over with saturated reds, yellows, and blues—the bars of color appearing to steadily bleed off the sides of the canvases. Even within the screen printing medium, his works are almost filled with as much movement as his entrancing video pieces.

Of late, we’ve been seeing Watz experiment with physical manifestations of his code-based work a lot, both through his recent Artist-in-Residency at MakerBot, where he’ll be turning his designs into 3D sculptures, and through his gorgeous laser cut pieces. Check out our interview with Watz from a few months ago to learn more about his work and creative process.

Marius Watz’s Arcs04-00

As the current Data Artist-in-Residence at the New York Times, Jer Thorp took the newspaper as his reference point. With two separate works, or “timepiece graphs,” he tracked the frequency with which certain words appear in the paper over the course of a twenty-year period. Each piece is arranged so that the data can be read clockwise.

Jer Thorp’s RGB

in RGB, he focused on the words ‘red, green, and blue,’ generating haloed visualizations that look like spastic vinyl records spinning out from the page. An aura of color seems to vibrate from the center to the edges of the accumulated mass of lines. While they are fairly innocuous words, thinking about the piece as a narrative of visual trends over the span of a twenty-year history is surely intriguing.

Jer Thorp’s Hope/Crisis

Thorp’s other work, Hope & Crisis, on the other hand, is concerned with the frequency of the words ‘hope’ and crisis’ in the newspaper. The subject matter offers a visualized glimpse of international trends through the lens of words that, while simple and familiar, usually carry a profound impact. The icy circuitry of the piece, although not as evidently mobile as RGB, has the appeal of an electric icicle splintered across the canvas. It is an aesthetic that stands in ironic contrast to words so pregnant with meaning. It offers an objective look at a much more serious narrative, though we’d be curious to know the specific events that caused spikes in the tracked words.

The silk screened prints will be sold in limited editions of 50 through the Random Numbers Multiples webstore for $100 each. Random Number and the artists will be celebrating the inauguration of the series with a one-night exhibition entitled You vs. the View tomorrow evening from 7-10 PM in Brooklyn. The gallery space is located at 135 Plymouth Street, #501, and can be found by taking the F train to York Street, or the A/C train to High Street. With the artists’ works normally inhabiting various kinds of screens, we think this installation offers a great opportunity to see these physical manifestations in person.