Lillian F. Schwartz is one of the pioneers in computer art and is known as the first female artist to use computers as an art tool. We quote a lengthy passage characterizing some of her earliest steps in the new medium:
“In the 1960s, when Schwartz first began to explore this new medium for artistic expression, the common public perception was that such works were randomly created by the computers themselves, much like the abstract paintings spewed out by quirky machines in Jean Tinguely’s 1960 Homage to New York. From the beginning, however, Schwartz made it clear in her work that the creative genius of the artist was in command of her technological toolbox. The computer was just another implement to be mastered, just as she had earlier learned the disciplined control required in using traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes. Schwartz shared this confident, experimental approach to the new medium in her immensely practical survey of the field, [”“The Computer Artist’s Handbook” “:Publication@119]_ (co-authored with Laurens Schwartz).
Even before becoming a member of the group, [“Experiments in Art and Technology” "Collective@29] (EAT), Schwartz had long demonstrated a keen interest in the combination of art with technology and science. However, although fascinated with the technological aspects of the computer as a new approach to creating art, Schwartz was most concerned with the finished product — the permanent work of art. In the early computer works therefore, one will find the somewhat limited results of the computer program enhanced with beautiful colors in more traditional materials, such as silkscreen and film. In time, the technology advanced to the degree that her digital works created with the computer could be viewed in their finished state on a high quality monitor and printed out with the intensity and nuances of color desired. She continues to experiment and to push the medium to achieve the results for which she is striving."
Schwartz came to the Bell Laboratories at Murray Hills, NJ (USA), as artist in residence, a position that apparently she was able to keep from 1969 on for about 30 years. Nobel prize laureate (physics), Arno Penzias, who was also working for Bell, once said of her: “What we know as computer art began in December 1968, when Lillian Schwartz grasped a light pen and began to draw.”
Lillian Schwartz, resident artist and consultant at Bell Laboratories (New Jersey), 1969-2002. During the 70s and 80s Schwartz developed a catalogue of visionary techniques for the use of the computer system by artists. Her formal explorations in abstract animation involved the marriage of film, computers and music in collaboration with such luminaries as computer musicians Jean-Claude Risset, Max Mathews, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Milton Babbit, and Richard Moore. Schwartz’s films have been shown and won awards at the Venice Biennale, Zagreb, Cannes, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and nominated and received Emmy nominations and awards.
Her work has been exhibited at, and is owned by, The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), The Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Centre Beauborg (Paris), Stedlijk Museum of Art (Amsterdam), and the Grand Palais Museum (Paris). Lumen has collaborated with Lillian Schwartz and curator Gregory Kurcewicz to compile a touring package of these important works. “A Beautiful Virus Inside the Machine” features animations restored to video. “The Artist and the Computer”, 1976, 10 mins is a documentary about her work. Produced by Larry Keating for AT&T, “The Artist and the Computer is an excellent introductory informational film that dispels some of the ‘mystery’ of computer-art technology, as it clarifies the necessary human input of integrity, artistic sensibilities, and aesthetics. Ms. Schwartz’s voice over narration explains what she hoped to accomplish in the excerpts from a number of her films and gives insight into the artist’s problems and decisions.” – John Canemaker