Collection Spotlight: Amoeba by Joshua Davis

Staff at the Block Museum recently began sharing their favorite works from our collection with each other on a weekly basis. Now we’ve decided to let you in on the fun. Check back for new objects!

Joshua Davis, Amoeba, from the series Once Upon a Forest, 2005, inkjet print. 2007.23.

I chose this work from the Block’s computer-generated prints collection. It’s by Joshua Davis, an artist born in 1971. From what I researched, Davis has been a colorful personality and presence in the art field: he’s covered with tattoos and has influenced a number of other artists and graphic designers. The Block acquired this print during our exhibition Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of the Computer Print in winter 2008.

At the time of our exhibition, Davis was at the height of his career. This particular print was created in 2005. I chose this work for a couple of reasons. All of the works in our exhibition were by artists who not only use the computer to generate art, but who create their own code. This print was not by someone simply going into a software program and creating something, but by an artist actually developing the algorithms to produce a work; indeed, in this genre of art, the programming becomes part of the creative process. In fact, Joshua Davis has mentioned being influenced by Jackson Pollock because Pollock’s paint-splattering technique bears resemblance to the randomness of computer programming and its application to art—the artist is not always aware of what the final product will look like. In his work, Davis takes software that was already in place, like Adobe Illustrator and Macro Media Flash and uses it in ways in which it wasn’t intended. I was drawn to this exhibit for its use of computers, a technology I associate with order and efficiency, to create beautiful and often chaotic-looking works. I was surprised that I liked it because I thought it would be too technological!

—Nicole Druckman, Grants Manager

You can make an appointment to see this work and others from the Block Museum’s permanent collection. Email printroom@northwestern.edu or see Visit the Study Center for more information.

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