Best of Lillian Schwartz
8 artifacts in this set
Lillian worked with synthetic materials early in her career. She often chose acrylic resin, a heat-sensitive plastic, as a medium. Wielding a blowtorch, she coaxed fragile bubbles from this large panel, forcing texture from its smooth surface. Lillian continued experimenting, challenging the edges of possibility.
Proxima Centauri is Lillian's breakthrough "kinetic" -- or moving -- sculpture. A projector and ripple tank cast undulating blue patterns inside a globe. When someone steps on a pressure pad, the sphere turns red and sinks into a black box. The Museum of Modern Art selected Proxima for its 1968 exhibit, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age.
A "maquette" for a 70-foot-tall sculpture proposed for Expo '70, World's Fair plays with light, color, and motion. Watery rainbows spiral inside thin glass tubes. Bubbly plastic sits on the sleek silver case, containing the sculpture's visible "plumbing." Lillian achieved a whimsical array of optical effects by juxtaposing materials. She continued mixing mediums in her computer art and films.
At Bell Laboratories, Lillian created Pixillation, her first computer film. She used a program called EXPLOR to generate patterns from square units -- or pixels -- but the process was slow. She dropped paint onto film stock, filmed growing crystals, and added color during post-production to finish the project. Refining a flair for computerized art, Lillian laid the groundwork for future films.
One of Lillian's goals was to capture motion in her computer films. Inspired by Eadweard Muybridge, who photographed running figures in 1887, Lillian created Olympiad. Athletes dart across the screen, built from layers of shifting lines and shapes. Some run fast, some run slow, and some run backward, but the same motion sequence powers them all.
Lillian didn’t only capture motion in her films -- she emulated it in other works. Taking a frame from her film Olympiad, she created a mixed-media collage. Metal thumbtacks and printed computer programs add texture to the central figure. Stripes made from audio tape trail from the athlete's shoulders, suggesting forward momentum. Shorter, overlapping runners mimic blurry shots of timelapse photography.
In 1982, the Museum of Modern Art commissioned Lillian to create a television commercial announcing their reopening after a large renovation. She also made this poster, choosing images of famous art from the museum's collection. Images fill the outline of Gaston Lachaise's Standing Woman sculpture -- just like paint fills a canvas. Warping the images simulated the texture of a paintbrush.
Throughout her career, Lillian explored the possibilities of computing in imaginative ways. One of Lillian's inspirations was Leonardo DaVinci. Testing Gerard Holzmann's early digital photo-editing program, "Pico," she merged DaVinci's self-portrait with Mona Lisa. To her surprise, their eyebrows, lips, and noses aligned. She had to ask: did DaVinci use himself as the model for his most famous painting?