Julia Morton on the Generative Art Movement
Previously a fashion designer and co-owner of Einstein's boutique, Julia Morton is now the gallerist of the Generative Art Project. Located in downtown Austin, the gallery features art made by humans working in creative collaboration with autonomous, non-human entities, such as code, math, data, software, and robots.
This week, The Artling had the opportunity to speak to Julia Morton on what drew her to Generative Art Project, and what the Generative Art movement means for the art world.
For those unfamiliar with this new medium, what is generative art? What excites you about this technology-driven medium?
The term generative art was coined in the early 1960s to describe art made by humans working in creative collaboration with autonomous, non-human entities, for example, computers, plotters, code, math, etc. I've broadened the term to cover work created with computers such as digital videos & prints, animation, 3D sculptures, VR, AR, NFT's, INFT's, and mapping.
In the art world, game-changing tools are rare, but when they do come along, they cause widespread disruption. The camera, for example, made photography possible, but it also changed how we thought about painting specifically and the purpose of art in general. Computers have already changed our daily routines, and I'm excited to see how the notion of generating images in collaboration with smart machines will affect creativity.
Can you tell us more about Generative Art Project? How did it come about, and what drew you to it?
The gallery allowed me to curate generative art that addressed the singularity, the sentience of data, and the digital landscape. As a writer, my contact with art lovers was distant; the gallery offered random encounters and instant feedback. Listening to the public speak their minds about art was a revelation. And witnessing a person falling in love with a work of art was profoundly moving. It was also a pleasure to help my artists gain validation for their efforts.
Can you point us to some pioneering artists in the field of Generative Art?
From 1950 to the 1980s, computers were expensive and scarce, and very few artists could gain access to them—those who did capture the zeitgeist of the Atomic Age with their machine-made pictures. But critical rejection was harsh; the art was sidelined as sci-fi kitsch, and only a core group persisted. The better-known artists include George Nees, Grace Herttein, Frieder Nake, Lillian Schwartz, Duane Palyka, Mutsuko Sasaki, Chuck Csuri, Harold Cohen, Herbert W Franke, Vera Molnár, and Manfred Mohr.
Frieder Nake, No Title, 1967. Image courtesy of the artist and Tate Brtiain.
Vera Molnar, Lettres de ma Mère, 1990. Image courtesy of the artist and Vintage Galéria.
Artists have used algorithms and computer data to generate Art for a long time. What do you think has led to the surge in Generative Art's recent heightened visibility, and what does this movement mean for the art world?
Technology is part of daily life for billions of people now, so the concept of making art in collaboration with smart tools is no longer an alien idea. Additionally, faster computers, better software, affordable hardware, and easier access to technical knowledge continues to create more opportunities. The movement attracts a younger audience, something the art world needs.
What advice do you have for artists looking to shift to working with this medium? In your perspective, do you feel that artists who specialize in traditional mediums (e.g., painting) should move towards generative art?
Like any other form, mastering generative art requires study and practice. That said, to get beyond the basics requires an aptitude for coding, software, and hardware. I believe artists should choose a medium that builds on their natural skills and best serves their conceptual intentions. Generative Art may be trendy now, but in the long run it's just another medium.
To art collectors who are new to this expanding digital terrain, who are some emerging artists in the Generative Art field to keep our eyes on?
I have many favorites, including Cory Arcangel, Sougwen Chung, E9, Shirley Steel, Team Lab, Michal Rovner, Casey Reas, Refik Anadol, Alba Corral, Mario Klingemann, Robert Seidel, Daniel Rozin, Cao Fei.
Now is an amazing time for astute collectors who are interested in digital art because their thoughtful choices can still shape the movement's evolution. Daring collectors discover and nurture new talents and being early adopters, they find masterpieces at reasonable prices. A well-curated collection elevates the chosen art and becomes an import resource for museums.
Artefact Nº 1, Sougwen Chung, 2021, Paint on Canvas, 44 x 34 in. Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 4.
The Infinite Crystal Universe, by TeamLab, 2018. Interactive Installation of Light Sculpture, LED, Endless, Sound: TeamLab.
What is next for you in terms of upcoming projects or shows? What is a dream project of yours that you would like to see realized?
Building on my experiences in the gallery, I'm interested in exploring the merging of humans and machines. AI + Art, my new site, will highlight the implications of augmented intelligence with insights from creatives, technologists, collectors, curators, philosophers, and scientists. I'll also be curating online exhibitions and developing pop-up events.
What does the future of Art look like to you? Do you think generative Art is here to stay, and do you think it has the potential to be on the same playing field as traditional art mediums?
I think some forms of generative Art are here to stay. Innovative museums are currently showing generative videos and prints alongside traditional art, and I think that trend will continue.
I’ve curated a small collection of art from your site that speaks to our increasingly complex relationship with the sensations of analog reality and the nonexistence senselessness of the digital metaverse. By mixing generative and traditional medium, the work highlights the differences and similarities of digital and analog art and showcases our shifting notion of reality.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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