Dr. Kenneth Knowlton is renowned for his seminal work in early computerized image generation, later developing into unique mosaic portraiture. He’s eighty-eight years old, and will not be continuing to create the large, technically complex pieces that marked the pinnacle of his career.
Though many of his works are now housed in private collections and museums, he still has a small number of works on exhibit from September 16 (reception Sept. 18 from 5 p.m. to 6:30) through October 31 at the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota, 1226 N. Tamiami Trail, Suite 300, Sarasota, FL 34236.
Ken Knowlton has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (MoMA), first in 1968. In 2018, he was featured there as a “groundbreaking artist” in its Monday Evening Series. At MOMA, Ken talked to a sold-out and overflowing auditorium about his pioneering work in computer animation and his artistic development over the years.
Knowlton’s artwork consists mostly of computer-assisted mosaic portraits — works deliberately made to be seen differently from various distances: from afar most of them are portraits, but at close range each is a vast array of actual seashells, dominoes, pottery shards, puzzle pieces, or other small objects. Implicitly Ken’s art raises the question: Why do you “see” what you think you see?
Ken is a seminal computer and mosaic artist, written about in numerous books and publications. He is one of twelve artists featured in Al Seckel’s book, Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali & the Artists of Optical Illusion. In its foreword, Douglas Hofstadter states, “Ken Knowlton’s coarse-grained pointillism is pure visual magic that will last a long time.”
Ken Knowlton has been a designer and developer of computer techniques and languages for graphics and art, for which he has won numerous prizes. His art has been used for at least ten magazine and book covers, has been featured in more than twenty books, and in over one hundred magazines and newspapers.
His work was included in MoMA’s 1968 exhibition, “The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age,” and he curated a film program for the show. When MoMA featured him as a groundbreaking artist in its Monday Evening Series (March 2018), Ken talked about his art practice over the years, his various collaborations, and his creation of the BEFLIX language, as well as his work in MoMA’s 1968 exhibition and the film he curated for the show. A MoMA media conservator stated recently that this show had “taken on a mythic quality.”
Ken made history developing the first computer language specifically for bitmap movie-making, and has been called the inventor of the pixel. At Bell Labs, he became the engineer-scientist-programmer-technologist of a series of art-technology collaborations.
He is the co-creator of the renowned Harmon-Knowlton Nude which, in October 1967, headed the second section of the New York Times — the first time a nude had ever been printed in the Times.
Knowlton’s Nude has appeared again and again in dozens of books and magazines.
He’s the inventor of Jigazo, based on his unique concept of a ‘universal jigsaw puzzle’ — a single set of puzzle pieces which can become a portrait of anyone, by computer-aided rearrangement of the pieces. Produced by Tenyo, it became a run-away hit in Japan, later licensed to Hasbro and now to the James Gang in the UK.
He has a number of patents as well.
Many of Knowlton’s works are featured on his website, KnowltonMosaics.com. One can click on a work of art, and views from various distances, as well as other details, will appear.