Charles Csuri is an ‘Old Master’ in a New Medium

When a big mainframe first showed up at Ohio State University, this member of the artfaculty began moonlighting across the quad

Aging Process, Charles Csuri
Aging Process, Charles Csuri Public Domain

In the short history of computer art, Prof. Charles Csuri at Ohio State University may be the nearest thing, in this new art form, to an Old Master.

In 1964, when Csuri decided to turn the computer into an artist's tool, the computer confronting him was a huge mainframe that required the entry of its data through punched cards. He had to become a programmer to talk to it. Until recent years, he wasn't making any art, except in his mind; he was developing the programs he needed to make the art he imagined.

Although there are now some powerful paint programs that allow artists to draw on a touch-sensitive tablet, and watch their work appear on the screen while the computer provides a choice of brushstrokes and colors, Csuri largely forgoes this more direct interaction with the computer. Instead, he continues to type away in the arcane jargons of computer languages, scripts, codes and menu selections, using a sophisticated computer that lets him sculpt images in three dimensions, set them in motion, and alter them in ways that often blur the distinctions between special effects and art. Yet, Csuri points out, "even though we have all this marvelous technology, you still need to have an esthetic sensibility, you need a sense of culture and history (for the image to work as art). That has not changed."

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