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Computer art pioneer Vera Molnar dies at 99

Computer art pioneer Vera Molnar dies at 99

Hungary-born artist Vera Molnar, known as the godmother of generative art for her pioneering digital work that began with the giant computers of the 1960s and evolved through the current era of NFTs, died in Paris on December 7. Done. She was 99 years old.

His death announced On social media by the Pompidou Center in Paris, which is scheduled to present a major exhibition of his work in February. Ms. Molnár had lived in Paris since 1947.

While his computer-assisted paintings and drawings, which drew inspiration from the geometric works of Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee, were eventually displayed in major museums. Museum of Modern Art His work was not always accepted at the New York and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, early in his career.

“Vera Molnár is one of the very few artists who had the conviction and perseverance to create computer-based visual art. When it was not taken seriously as an art form, critics condemned the emerging form because they There was no belief that “the artist's hand was evident in the work,” Michael Bohana, global head of digital art at Sotheby's, wrote in an email.

Ms. Molnar actually began applying principles of computation to her work years before she had access to a real computer.

In 1959, he began implementing a concept he called “Machine Imaginaire” – the imaginary machine. This analog approach involved using simple algorithms to direct the placement of lines and shapes for works drawn by hand on grid paper.

He took his first steps into the silicon era in 1968, when he gained access to computers in a university research laboratory in Paris. In the days when computers were generally reserved for scientific or military applications, it took a combination of courage and '60s idealism for an artist to try to gain access to a machine that was “very complex and expensive,” he once said, “They were selling computation time in seconds.”

Nevertheless, he later said in an interview with art curator and historian Hans Ulrich Obrist, “In 1968 we thought that everything was possible, and all you have to do is knock on doors and the doors open.” Nevertheless, he faced skepticism from the head of the computer lab.

“He looked at me,” she said, “and I thought he was considering whether he should call a nurse to sedate me or lock me up.”

Creating art on Apollo-era computers was anything but intuitive. Ms. Molnar had to learn early computer languages ​​like BASIC and FORTRAN and enter her data with punch cards, and she had to wait several days for the results, which were transferred to paper with a plotter printer.

An early series, “Obstacles”, consisted of a vast sea of ​​short lines on a white background. As ARTNews noted in a recent obituaries: “She would establish a series of straight lines, then rotate some, causing her rigid set of marks to fall out of alignment. Then, to create even more chaos, she would randomly erase certain parts, resulting in empty areas amidst the sea of ​​lines.'' Another series, “(des)orders” (1974), which consisted of apparently ordered patterns of concentric squares, which he modified to appear slightly disorganized, as if they were vibrating.

Over the years, Ms. Molnar continued to explore the tension between machine-like perfection and the chaos of life, as with her 1976 plotter drawing. “1% of the disorder,” Another fragmented pattern of concentric squares. “I like order, but I can't afford it,” she told Mr. Obrist. “I make mistakes, I stammer, I mess up my words.” And so, he concludes, “Anarchy, perhaps, comes from this.”

Audiences of his work were not always thrilled. Ms. Molnar recalled one exhibit where visitors would joke, “Look to one side so they don't get some kind of horrible eyesore.” Eventually he made his point, telling a skeptical visitor that computers, like artworks, were created by intelligent humans, and so “most human art is created by computers, because every last part of it is a human invention.”

“Oh my, the reactions I got!” He said. “But I survived, you know.”

Vera Gax was born on January 5, 1924 in Budapest. His early artistic influences came from one of his uncles, who was a “Sunday painter”. A 2012 interview,

“I went to his house to praise him; He painted clearings, bushes with dancing nymphets,” she said. “The smell of oil paint, the small green and yellow leaves mesmerized me.” Her uncle gave her a wooden box of pastels, which she used to paint evening sunsets at the family's country house near Lake Balaton.

Ms. Molnar went on to study art history and aesthetics at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, where she met her future husband, François MolnarA scientist who sometimes collaborated with him in his work.

Mr. Molnar died in 1993. Information about survivors was not immediately available.

After Ms. Molnar graduated in 1947, the couple moved to Paris, where he began his art career and established himself socializing in café Along with prominent abstract artists such as Victor Vasarely, Fernand Léger and Wassily Kandinsky, who also brought a geometric sensibility to their work.

By the early 1960s, she had become a recognized figure in the art world, joining forces with François Morellet, Julio Le Parc, Francisco Sobrino and others to form an influential group. Groupe de Recherche d'Art VisualWhich sought to incorporate science and industrial materials into the creation of art.

The scope of his career continued to expand in the 1970s. He began using computers with screens, which allowed him to quickly assess the results of his code and adjust accordingly. With the screen, it was “like a conversation, like a real one” pictorial process,'' he said in a recent interview with generic art creator and entrepreneur Eric Calderon. “You twirl the ‘brush’ and immediately see whether it suits you or not.”

Ms. Molnar acquired her first personal computer in 1980, allowing her to “work when I wanted and when I wanted,” she told Mr. Calderon. “It was great to go to bed at night and hear the computers and plotters working alone in the workshop.”

While the art world was slow to fully recognize Ms. Molnar's work, her reputation has grown in recent years with the explosion of digital art. In 2022, he performed Venice Biennalewhere she was the oldest living artist shown.

Earlier this year, he cemented his legacy in the world of blockchain with “Themes and Variations,” a generative art series of over 500 works using NFT technology, created in collaboration with artist and designer Martin Grasser. Was created and sold through Sotheby's. Sales of this series brought in $1.2 million.

“I have No regrets,” she said in a 2017 video interview. “My life is squares, triangles, lines.”



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