Title: GRASS; Series II
Artist(s): Colette and Charles J. Bangert
Date Created: 1980
Beginning in 1967, Colette Bangert’s collaboration with her husband produced a series of works, “algorithmic drawings,” which have been extensively documented and collected. The earliest work was created at the University of Kansas Computer Center in Lawrence, Kansas, and output to a plotter, the Draft-O-Matic. Colette’s signature “CB” signaled the collaborative nature of their work. Seeking out the Bangerts at the University of Kansas in 1968, sculptor Robert Mallory described their collaboration as a process whereby Jeff as a programmer “enabled the computer to plot endless simulations of the kinds of drawings and paintings that Colette was creating by hand in her studio.” Software allowed them “to explore the relationships between algorithmically defined numerical functions and the drawing.” The Bangerts viewed the computer both as tool for research into the nature of the world and as a collaborator in the production of art. An artist made a drawing by laying down lines on paper, impelled by the mind’s insight into visual form. A plotter made a drawing by laying down lines on paper, impelled by the mind’s insight into mathematical form. If the algorithmic form was modeling the artists’ drawn line, and like the artist, creating series of images, suites of variations, then it too was engaged in finding “what the making of a drawing is about regardless of its medium”. If the artist was engaged in discovering and recreating the forms of the natural world, then the computer was also engaged in discovering and recreating them — or as the Bangerts declared, “Computer grass is natural grass.”
As their exhibition history makes clear, in the 1970s and 1980s the Bangerts actively participated in a burgeoning culture of digital art presented in museum shows and traveling art shows and published and discussed in scholarly conferences and journals. Their computer-based methods and attitudes towards their medium emerged within and were shared by a new generation of digital artists. Computer scientist Frank Dietrich’s essay “Visual Intelligence: The First Decade of Computer Art (1965-1975)” locates the Bangerts’ work within the cross-pollinating conversation.