Lillian F. Schwartz

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Born 1927 in Cincinnati, USA.

Lillian F. Schwartz has been an artist of many kinds. But she is mainly known for her contributions to early computer-generated art, particularly for her animated films. She is one of the first female artists using computers as an instrument to create works of artistic value.

She has always been interested in the cross-over or mixing of methods and techniques from art, science, and technology. It was a logical step for her to get in touch with the “Experiments in Art and Technology” (E.A.T.) movement when E.A.T. announced, in November 1967, a competition that should lead to close cooperations between artists and engineers. A selection of works submitted to the competition were to be included in an extension of the landmark show, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age (curated by K.G. Pontus Hultén at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (from 25 November, 1968, to 9 February, 1969)).

With Danish engineer, Per Biorn, Schwartz submitted the installation Proxima Centauri that was also included in several shows later.

Leon Harmon invited Schwartz to come to the Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ (USA), as an artist in residence and consultant, a position she was able to keep from 1969 on for about 30 years. At Bell, she met a group of persons who were for a few years working experimentally on various projects of art and technology, in particular on computer art (Leon Harmon, Bela Julesz, Ken Knowlton, A. Michael Noll, Manfred Schroeder, and others). Most of the works connected with her name have their roots in those years of collaboration between art and technology, artists and technical people.

In particular, she could use software developed at Bell Labs (as, e.g., the early animation language, BEFLIX, by Ken Knowlton). It is, however, unclear to which extent she actually used software.

Because of copyright issues, we regret very much that we can currently not show any images drawn from her animated films.

Web site: www.lillian.com
Member of institution(s): Bell Laboratories
Programming languages/software used: BEFLIX

1948-1949 Studies free-hand drawing at the University of St.Louis, Missouri.
1968 or 69 Meets Leon Harmon in the context of the exhibition The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. Harmon invites her to work at Bell Laboratories as a guest.
Submits a computer generated print to New Jersey State Annual Competition. The print is rejected.
1970 Submits the computer generated print to the competition again, this time labeled as “silkscreen”. It is not only accepted, but also bought by the museum Newark State Museum.

Remark Lillian F. Schwartz’s work is represented in major art collections and museums around the world. She was a frequent lecturer at universities throughout North America. She has been a visiting or adjunct professor at Kean College, the University of Maryland, New York University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. – More on her life and work: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Schwartz.
http://lillian.com

Notice For the time being, unfortunately, all images by Lillian Schwartz have been removed from this site.

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Lillian never used BEFLIX, which was a very simple program. She had studied programming at the Labs and a university and drafted what would become EXPLOR, the code for which was written by Knowlton and amended based on Lillian's suggestions. Even then, she only used a small amount of the code in creating her very early films. Her focus was not just on pushing the computer to become a tool for art, animation, and analysis, but in understanding color perception, how the brain perceives color and depth, tricking cones so that saturated colors beat at them when they needed to be refreshed. The result was that almost all of her work from 1969 on could be viewed in 2D and, with Chromadepth glasses (invented decades later), in 3D. BEFLIX was the program used in Stan VanDerBeek's poem fields.