Robert Mallary | i |
last name: Mallary
first name: Robert
birthday: December 2, 1917
birth-place: Toledo,Ohio (USA)
death date: February 10, 1997
died in: Northampton, Massachusetts (USA)

Robert Mallary was a renowned artist early in his career already, and made a pioneering contribution to “computer art”. He was a professor in the art department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, from 1967 to 1996, just a year before he passed away. He is more famous even for the neo-dada junk sculpture and his use of industrial materials like acrylic and polyester plastics, with fluorescent dyes and pigments to produce assemblage relief constructions, than for his computer art.

In 1967, he became interested in using a computer program to design sculpture. Like several artist in the late 1960s, he was impressed by what the cybernetic idea of controlling complex processes promised to open up as artistically new or, at least, exciting to try out. He hoped in cybernetics for an “intelligence and information amplification device which will be linked synergistically with the unique, creative capacities of the human mind for performances, intellectual and creative, surpassing either human or machine capabilities functioning separately.” (from a website on Mallary’s art).

When he turned to computers, Mallary returned to his old interest in the potential of combinations of art and technology. He became one of the first artists (if not actually the first) to create a sculpture by use of a computer program. Meanwhile, in late 1966, art and technology had actually met in the Nine Evenings event in New York, staged by “experiments in art and technology”.

In his own words "My contributions to computer art over the years include: learning to write and use my own computer programs; developing the first program, TRAN2, for the computer-aided design of sculpture; developing the first program, ECOSITE, for the design of land reclamation and earth sculpture; developing a series of large programs oriented to the lineal character of computer-driven pen plotters; developing a large library of tutorial programs and subroutines (over 150 in all) to support my creative work and teaching; and creating and exhibiting a large oeuvre of computer-graphic art that has drawn upon the resources of this library. I have also written articles and lectured extensively on computer art. " – (Mallary: Dedication)

The sculptures Quad II and Quad III were done by building up layers of discs (cut out of plywood and glued) so that those discs fit into a contour. This technique allows for a limited sort of three-dimensional volumes only but one that, by the time, was easy to design by computer.

Later in his life, Mallary was one of the first artists to speak about health hazards caused by working with industrial materials. He did so because of his own experience.

Further readings on computer sculpture:
Mallary: Six levels of cybernetics (Artforum, May 1969. Wrongly stated as May 1979 on Mallary’s website)


1925 Began studying art.
1938 to 1939 Studied at Escuela de Las Artes Del Libro, Mexico City.
Impressed by ideas of Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquerios relating to Art and Technology and began experimenting with plastics.
1941 Studied at the Painter’s Workshop School, Boston.
1942 to 1943 Studied at the Academia San Carlos, Mexico City.
1942 to 1943 Conducted a research Project on Experimental Media with Orozco.
1945 to 1954 Worked in Advertising graphics and simulataneously developed luminiscient sculpture with industrial materials like lucite, acetate, fiber glass, polyster, black light etc.
1949 to 1950 Taught at the California School of Art, Los Angeles.
1954 Exhibited Polyster paintings at the Urban gallery, New York.
1950 to 1954 Taught at the Hollywood Art Center School and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
1956 Particpated in the travelling group exhibition “Forty California Painters”.
1959 to 1967 Moved to New York to teach at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY.
1961, 62 and 66 Showed new works at Allan Stone Gallery.
1962 Taught at Pennsylvania State University.
1963 and 1967 Taught at University of California,Davis.
1964 Recieved a Guggenheim grant and started working in bronze.
1964 Stopped using polyster resin because of it’s toxicity (One of the first artists to write about material hazards) and gradually turned to the computer by 1967.
1965 Taught at the University of Minnesota.
1967 Started teaching at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA and got the opportunity to try out computers.
1968 Retrospective of his work organised at the University of New York, Potsdam.
1968 Exhibited a computer- designed sculpture at the “Cybernetic Serendipity”, ICA, London.
1993 Exhibition of his new assembelages and computer graphics held at Algus Gallery, Soho, New York.
posted over 9 years ago
Omitted from your text is the fact Bob created the first piece of computer sculpture.
enter new comment
Please, be adviced that you are entering your text into a database, not into a social network! By entering a comment, you add to the database. We much appreciate comments making us aware of errors or deficiencies.