Harold Cohen, founding director of the Center for Research in
Computing and the Arts (CRCA), was an English painter with an established international reputation when he came to UCSD in 1968 for a one-year Visiting Professorship. His first experience with computing followed almost immediately, and he never returned to London. Cohen is the author of the celebrated AARON program, an ongoing research effort in autonomous machine (art making) intelligence, which began when he was a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Artificial
Intelligence Lab in the early 1970s. Together, Cohen and AARON have exhibited at London's Tate Gallery, the LA County Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, the Museum of Contemporary
Art San Diego and many more of the world's major art spaces. They have also been shown at a dozen science centers, including the Ontario Science Center, the Boston Science Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry. Cohen represented the U.S. in the world’s fair in Tsukuba, Japan, in 1985. He has permanent exhibits devoted to his work in the Museum of Computing History
in Mountain View, CA, and in the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.
An acknowledged pioneer in relation to computing in the arts, Cohen
has given invited papers on his work at major international conferences on AI, computer graphics and art technologies, and his work is widely cited in the literature.
More than forty years of continuous work on and with AARON has
significantly transformed the typical artist/medium—or programmer/program—relationship for Cohen. One of the few artists ever to have become deeply involved in artificial intelligence, he began with a strong thrust towards program autonomy, in the course of which AARON became the only program in existence to function as a world-class colorist. Today, however, he regards AARON as
collaborator rather than independent artist. The changing states of this
relationship are reflected in the three groups of works in this exhibition:
works on paper made by AARON and presented as "orthodox" editioned
prints: one-off printed images that have then been permanently mounted and surface-treated to function as "paintings." In the most recent work, AARON generates "underpaintings" rather than completed images, printing them on canvas for Cohen to develop by hand. The exhibition also includes a screen-based version of the program in the exhibition, which continuously modifies a single image for the duration of the show.