Manfred Mohr, ‘P-142h (Negative Field Syntax)’, 1973, bitforms gallery

Mohr's work is an important bridge between handmade manipulations and machine-calculated structures in art. His demonstrated interest in process, language and line texture are revealed in in early abstract painted works, prior to his discovery of the computer as a tool for art. This particular drawing is part of Mohr's early algorithmic work phase (1969-72, following an interest in hard edge painting) which emphasized a "formalism" of the software medium: logical and automatic construction of pictures. In this work phase, the left-to-right linear composition is also influenced by Mohr's observation of the way a computer-controlled drawing machine (the Benson plotter) drags ink across the paper, as if it were written in a script.

Typical of his early algorithmic work, this piece links line to language, process and conceptual systems. Mohr calculated the image using a program that he authored in the FORTRAN language. With a choice of different line characteristics, an alphabet of randomly generated elements is created.

More about the algorithm: Lines with acute angles represent the numbers 0-9, and lines with obtuse angles represent the letters of the alphabet A-Z. When a letter adjoins a number, a horizontal thick line is added between them. The space between the line is thus formed and a lower base horizontal line is filled in with parallel vertical lines. In P-142 letters and numbers are chosen randomly, thus creating a random text.

About Manfred Mohr

Influenced by his experience as a jazz musician and by German philosopher Max Bense’s theories on rational aesthetics, Manfred Mohr has been an innovator in the field of computer-generated art. To manipulate, for example, the myriad variations of the 11-dimension hypercube, Mohr created algorithms in FORTRAN programming language and printed them on flatbed plotters before the advent of laser printers. Mohr’s “Klangfarben” series (2008) features paintings and digital animation of brightly colored diagonal lines and intersecting planes against a flat black background.

German, b. 1938, Pforzheim, Germany