Harold Cohen

July 11, 2009

Harold Cohen, former 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 the Univ.of CA San Diego 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 1973.

Together, Cohen and AARON have exhibited at London’s Tate Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum 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 US in the World Fair in Tsukuba, Japan, in 1985. He has a permanent exhibit devoted to his work in Boston’s Computer Museum.

One of the few artists ever to have become deeply involved in artificial intelligence, Cohen has given invited papers on his work at major international conferences on AI, computer graphics and art technologies. His work is widely cited in the literature, and it is the subject of Pamela McCorduck’s AARON’s CODE: Meta-Art, Artificial Intelligence, and the Work of Harold Cohen (Freeman).

In more than two decades AARON has produced many thousands of drawings, to a few dozen of which Cohen has added color. The goal of his current research-by far the most difficult to date, he says-is to have AARON do its own coloring. This phase of the project is now well under way. The painting machine with which AARON colored real drawings in the real world was premiered at an exhibit at the Computer Museum in Boston in the spring of 1995.

Harold Cohen
AARON’s History – Harold Cohen

See essays by this author:
Decoupling art and affluence
See selected books by this author:
THE AGE of INTELLIGENT MACHINES | Brother Giorgio's Kangaroo