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Charles Csuri: Art & Research, a Memorial Exhibition in Three Acts

The experimental work of Charles Csuri (1922–2022) undoubtedly shaped the world of computer art and prompted Smithsonian Magazine to dub him “the father of digital art and computer animation.” Csuri was the founder of the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) at The Ohio State University and co-founder of Cranston/Csuri Productions (CCP), giving rise to groundbreaking innovations in animation.

Charles Csuri: Art & Research, a Memorial Exhibition in Three Acts will present a memorial exhibition at Hopkins Hall Gallery—hosted by Ohio State’s Urban Arts Space—that brings the public into an experience of Csuri’s life as both an artist and researcher. Highlights from the collection include previously unseen works from 1967–2022, the full version of the 1967 film Hummingbird as one of the earliest examples of computer animation, and Random War, which used a random number generator to underscore the indiscriminate impact of war. This exhibition is curated by Janice Glowski, Director of The Frank Museum of Art & Galleries at Otterbein University, who has curated Csuri’s work since 1999.

The project involves dozens of collaborators across disciplines at Ohio State and within the Columbus community and is generously funded by a grant for interdisciplinary collaborations in artificial intelligence in the arts, humanities, and engineering.

Charles Csuri Website: www.charlescsuri.com

Instagram: @charlescsuri


Exhibition Dates

Act I (1964–1969): Artist as InterrupterAugust 28–September 22, 2023

Act II (1969–1987): Artist as Principal Investigator October 2–20, 2023

Act III (1989–2022): Artist Returns to the Studio October 30–November 17, 2023


Programming Dates

*This page will be updated with times and locations as event details are finalized.

Foundation to Future Community Block Party at the MPACC Box Park — August 26, 2023, 2:00–8:00 PM

Hopkins Hall Gallery open late alongside the Wex Open HouseSeptember 14, 2023, 11:00 AM–7:00 PM

Act I Curator Walk-ThroughSeptember 18, 2023, 4:30–6:00 PM

Act II Curator Walk-ThroughOctober 9, 2023, 4:30–6:00 PM

On-Campus Visit with Artist Tega BrainOctober 17, 2023, 5:30–7:00 PM at Wexner Center Film/Video Theater

Artist Commune: Digital Making in Creative Spaces  — October 27, 2023, 6:30–8:30 PM at Hopkins Hall Gallery

Act III Curator Walk-ThroughNovember 3, 2023, 6:30–8:00 PM (plus a tour of ACCAD at 5:30 PM)

Virtual Talk with James Bridle, Author of Ways of Being November 7, 2023, 12:30–1:45 PM


The Three Acts

Act I (1964–1969): Artist as InterrupterAugust 28–September 22, 2023

In 1964, Csuri walked out of Hopkins Hall—the Ohio State Department of Art—to meet with faculty in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Engineering. In doing so, he interrupted the university’s siloed, disciplinary spaces. At the time, Ohio State had only one mainframe computer (IBM 7094) on campus. Before the mid-1960s, Computer Science was taught in the Department of Mathematics. Csuri brought his research questions to Mathematics Professor Leslie Miller and Engineering Professor James Shaffer. In doing so, he disrupted existing research structures and invited new types of collaboration and new ways of thinking. 

This research explored core artistic issues, like texture, shading, and meaningful relationships between form and abstraction, through the use of a mainframe computer, drum plotter, punch cards, ink pens, and pseudo-random number generators, among other tools. Csuri extended this media by screen printing on acrylic, carving into wood, and creating films of fragmentation animation. Csuri investigated principles of transformation using mathematical equations and line fragmentation, as well as uncertainty and surprise through the use of randomness.



Act II (1969–1987): Artist as Principal Investigator October 2–20, 2023

In 1968, Csuri submitted a grant application to the National Science Foundation (NSF) entitled A Software Requirement for Research and Education in the Visual Arts. He was the first artist to receive an NSF grant, which totaled $99,199 ($831,934 equivalent in 2023). This was the first of multiple NSF grants, including an award in 1983 for $600,000 ($1,757,295 equivalent in 2023). With this funding, we see a shift toward an expanded type of collaboration and set of responsibilities—those of a Principal Investigator at a major research university. To accomplish his creative aims, Csuri established the Computer Graphics Research Group (CGRG), with members including faculty and graduate students from Art, Art Education, Design, Photography and Cinema, Computer and Information Science, and Mathematics. The interdisciplinary, collaborative model that Csuri established is, today, an integral part of all Computer Graphics companies and Research & Development. 

CGRG research involved developing software for computer-controlled motion (T. DeFanti & M. Knemeyer); techniques of keyframe animation to blend images to create facial drawings (M. Gillenson); and geometric modeling tools for animation (R. Parent), for example. The Animation-Real-Time (ART) system (a.k.a. Real-time Art Objects and Real-time Art Films) marked a dramatic leap forward in Csuri’s ability to create artwork in real time and that incorporated color, dimension, and movement using a light pen and vector graphics. CGRG’s basic research led to the founding of Cranston/Csuri Productions, Inc. (1981–1987), a commercial computer animation company that was founded by Charles Csuri and investor Robert Kanuth to commercially exploit animation technology and talent coming out of CGRG. In 1987, Csuri and Tom Linehan (Professor of Art Education) converted the Computer Graphics Research Group into the Advanced Computing Center for Arts and Design (ACCAD) at Ohio State with funding from an Ohio Board of Regents grant. 


Act III (1989–2022): Artist Returns to the Studio: October 30–November 17, 2023

In 1985, Csuri left Cranston/Csuri Productions’ commercial focus and returned to research and teaching with the Computer Graphics Research Group. In 1990, Csuri retired from Ohio State as a faculty member, graduate advisor, administrator, grants writer, and Principal Investigator for research. With his wife Lee’s encouragement, he returned to his studio and began making art full-time, sometimes bridging traditional media with computer programming. He continued his imagining of possibilities and collaborated, episodically, with programmers (e.g., S. May, S. Anderson) to build his “artist toolkit”—unique programming routines that allowed Csuri to work creatively with color fields, drawing in three-dimensional space, and exploring the play between form and abstraction. From 1990–2022, the computer was Csuri’s primary collaborator, and he created innumerable generative art series and animations. By 2006, Csuri also was invited to collaborate with international curators and gamers (L. Aceti, V. L. Dziekan, W. Adams, D. Moore) leading to significant remediations of Random War. 


Exhibition Collaborators

  • Dr. Terron Banner: Manager of Community Learning and Experience at Urban Arts Space and Csuri project principal investigator
  • Merijn van der Heijden: Director of Urban Arts Space
  • Janice Glowski: Csuri Exhibition Curator and Director of The Frank Museum of Art & Galleries at Otterbein University
  • Lisa Florman: Vice Provost for the Arts, Ohio State Office of Academic Affairs
  • Shadrick Addy: Assistant Professor of Design & ACCAD at Ohio State
  • Matt Lewis: Assistant Professor of Design & ACCAD at Ohio State
  • Kris Paulsen: Associate Professor of History of Art, Chair of Undergraduate Studies at Ohio State
  • Rajiv Ramnath: Professor of Practice in Computer Science and Engineering at Ohio State
  • Richard Samuels: Professor & Department Chair in the Department of Philosophy at Ohio State
  • Arris' Cohen: Professional artist, educator, and community artist-in-residence at Urban Arts Space
  • Xiaoxiao Bao: Researcher and PhD candidate in the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy at Ohio State
  • Iyana Hill: Exhibitions & Engagement Intern at Urban Arts Space and Studio Art/African American and African Studies major at Ohio State
  • Mario Hairston: Creative Director for Sole Classics in Columbus, Ohio
  • Chris Hearn: Senior Manager for Canvaas Consulting in Columbus, Ohio