Early SIGGRAPH Art Shows – 1981-1985

First held in Boulder, Colorado in 1974, the SIGGRAPH Conferences have become one of the most widely recognized showcases of computer graphics and interactive technology. Beginning in 1979, the SIGGRAPH conferences began to feature computer and video artists’ work, giving rise to what would eventually become the SIGGRAPH art exhibition. Female artists were early adopters of these graphic technologies and instrumental in organizing the early art exhibitions.

In 1981, SIGGRAPH presented two art shows in Dallas: The SIGGRAPH Art Show and the Frame Buffer Show.  Darcy Gerbarg curated the first SIGGRAPH Art Show: Computer Culture Art Show ’81, and James Seligman was the Art Show Administrator.  In addition, Ray Lauzzana was on the committee and assisted in the show traveling to locations in Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Toronto.  David Em came up with the idea for the Frame Buffer Show.  James Seligman was the Chair; Julian Gomez was the Frame Buffer Art Show administrator and Bob Holzman found the funding from ACM SIGGRAPH and in-kind contributions from industry.  

The shows were very well received, and ACM SIGGRAPH provided significant funding in 1982 for the first juried SIGGRAPH Art Show in Boston, co-chaired by Copper Frances Giloth and Darcy Gerbarg.   The 1982 Art Show Committee included: Joanne P. Culver, Copper Giloth, Darcy Gerbarg, Louise Ledeen, and Aaron Marcus.

Three essays were featured in the 1982 Art Show Catalog:

Cynthia Goodman – Art and Technology: Bridging the Gap in the Computer Age

A Mike Knoll – Computers and the Visual Arts: A Retrospective View

Gene Youngblood – Towards Autonomous Reality Communities: A Future for Computer Graphics

Darcy Gerbarg mounted a Student Poster exhibit, to give students a venue to display their computer graphics work.  In addition, a series of seminal interviews took place by and of the artists and curators.  Twenty-five years later, Copper Giloth and her students at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, digitized these interviews and you’ll see a sample of them today.   Thirty video interviews can be found on: https://people.umass.edu/sig82art/

In 1983, the juried SIGGRAPH Art Show, held in Detroit, was chaired by Copper F. Giloth. Her committee consisted of the Joanne Culver, who was also the Traveling SIGGRAPH Art Show Chair, David Morris, Jessie Reid and Cynthia Neal.   Once again, a Frame Buffer Art Installation was installed by Bob Holzman, Jim Blinn and David Em.  The 1983 SIGGRAPH Art Show traveled to over 30 locations throughout the U.S., Canada, France, Italy, and Japan.  

Catalog essays included: Lucinda Furlong: Artists/Technologists: The Computer as an Imaging Tool; Catherine Richards – Mapping a Sensibility: Computer Imaging; and Gene Youngblood – A Medium Matures: The Myth of Computer Art were included in the 1983 Art Show Catalog. 

In 1984, in Minneapolis, SIGGRAPH took a different direction and featured an exhibition focused on Computer Aided Design (CAD) in Art and Design.   Three papers were written as part of the exhibition: Del Coates – CAD and Industrial Design; Patrick Whitney – Information, Computers and Design and William Mitchell – What Good is a Computer to an Architect?

In 1985, in San Francisco, Louise (Etra) Ledeen chaired the SIGGRAPH Art Show.  Rachel E. Carpenter was the Art Show Administrator and Joanne Culver once again was the Traveling Arts Show Chair.    The art show jury consisted of: Kathy Rae Huffman; Robin King; Margot Lovejoy; Beau Takahara and Woody Vasulka.  

In addition to the juried exhibition in the Moscone Convention Center, additional computer art events took place around the San Francisco during SIGGRAPH.   A hands-on computer graphics workshop, “Input/Output Computer Graphics Festival” was held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA).  The Rush Dance Troupe performed “RAB” at the Palace of Fine Arts – with choreography by Patrice Regnier, computer animation by Rebecca Allen, and original score by Carter Burwell.  
Two interactive computer graphics installations were featured at the Exploratorium: Peter Richter and Heinz-Otto Peitgen “Frontiers of Chaos, 1985” and Jeffrey Shaw’s “Invisible Cities-A Narrative Landscape, 1985” – based on the novel by Italo Calvino.  Donna Cohen organized a student SIGGRAPH poster competition at the Academy of Art College.   The 1985 Art Show 2D, 3D, video and online pieces were divided into two groupings.  One group was installed at the Isetan Museum in Tokyo and the other was incorporated into an exhibition: “Processos” at the Reina Sofia Museum of Art in Madrid.

Additional resources:

Dr. Cynthia Goodman

Dr. Cynthia Goodman’s papers at the Smithsonian

Darcy Gerbarg

Darcy Gerbarg’s work in the SIGGRAPH archives

Darcy Gerbarg’s interactive videos

Copper Frances Giloth

Copper Frances Giloth’s work in the SIGGRAPH archives

Louise Ledeen

Louise Ledeen’s work in the SIGGRAPH archives

A recent talk featuring Louise Ledeen


Information about the Computer Art Festivals

All of the SIGGRAPH Art Shows from 1981 to the present

SIGGRAPH ‘82 catalogue

Video interviews regarding SIGGRAPH ’82



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