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How old is digital art?



How old is digital art? A question that may seem simple at first glance, but the answer is far from straightforward. The use of computers for creating art dates back several decades, but the concept of digital art as we know it today is relatively new. Let's dive into the history of digital art and explore its evolution over time.

The first colour image created by AARON at the Computer Museum, Boston, MA, in 1995.

The first use of the term "digital art" was in the early 1980s when computer engineers devised a paint program which was used by the pioneering digital artist Harold Cohen. This program, called AARON, was a robotic machine designed to make large drawings on sheets of paper placed on the floor. AARON was one of the first examples of artificial intelligence in art and Cohen's work with the program was groundbreaking.


However, even before the development of AARON, there were artists experimenting with digital media. In the 1960s, artists such as Nam June Paik and John Whitney began using analog electronic devices to create abstract images and animations. Paik's work with manipulated television sets and Whitney's use of computer algorithms to generate visuals laid the foundation for the future of digital art.

The 1979 exhibition, Drawings, at SFMOMA, featured this “turtle” robot creating drawings in the gallery.

As computer technology advanced in the 1970s, more artists began to explore the possibilities of digital media. In 1972, the first public exhibition of computer-generated art was held at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York. The exhibition, titled "Computer-Generated Pictures," featured work by artists such as Vera Molnar, Michael Noll, and Lillian Schwartz. These artists used early computer programs to create complex geometric shapes and patterns.


In the 1980s, digital art began to gain wider recognition as the personal computer became more accessible to the general public. Artists such as Cory Arcangel and John F. Simon Jr. began using personal computers to create interactive installations and multimedia works. The 1980s also saw the rise of video art, which used video cameras and early video editing software to create experimental works that blurred the line between art and technology.


The 1990s marked a significant turning point in the history of digital art. With the advent of the internet and the World Wide Web, digital art began to reach a wider audience. Artists such as Olia Lialina and Heath Bunting began creating net art, which used the internet as a medium for artistic expression. Net art often featured interactive elements and incorporated elements of web design and programming.



In the 2000s, digital art continued to evolve as artists began to experiment with new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. The rise of social media also created new opportunities for artists to share their work with a wider audience. Today, digital art encompasses a wide range of mediums and styles, from 3D animation to generative art to digital painting.


The history of digital art is a complex and multifaceted story. While the use of computers for creating art dates back several decades, the concept of digital art as we know it today is relatively new. From the early experiments with analog electronic devices in the 1960s to the rise of virtual reality in the 2000s, digital art has undergone a significant evolution over the years. Despite its relatively short history, digital art has already left a significant mark on the world of art and technology. As we continue to explore new technologies and mediums, it's clear that the future of digital art is bright.


If you're interested in exploring the world of digital art further or have a project in mind, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Mad Matt Design is a professional illustration and graphic design studio that specializes in digital art. You can contact us through our website or WhatsApp us at +628990330665 to discuss your project.

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