David Em

David Em

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Life and work

David Em is one of the first artists to make art with pixels. He was born in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 and grew up in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. He studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is a museum and art school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1805 and is the oldest art museum and school in the United States. The academy's museum is internationally known for its collections of 19th and 20th century American paintings,...

 and film directing at the American Film Institute
American Film Institute
The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act...


Em created digital paintings at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC
Xerox PARC
PARC , formerly Xerox PARC, is a research and co-development company in Palo Alto, California, with a distinguished reputation for its contributions to information technology and hardware systems....

) in 1975 with SuperPaint
SuperPaint was a pioneering graphics program and framebuffer computer system developed by Richard Shoup at Xerox PARC. The system was first conceptualized in late 1972 and produced its first stable image in April 1973...

, "the first complete digital paint system". In 1976, he made an articulated 3D digital insect at Information International, Inc.
Information International, Inc.
Information International, Inc., commonly referred to as Triple-I or III, was an early computer technology company; Founded by Edward Fredkin in 1962 in Maynard, Massachusetts. It then moved to Santa Monica, Culver City, and Los Angeles California. Triple-I merged with Autologic, Inc. in 1996...

 (III) that could walk, jump, and fly, the first 3D character created by a fine artist. With his 1977 art work Aku, Em became the first artist to produce a navigable virtual world at NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. The facility is headquartered in the city of Pasadena on the border of La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena...

 (JPL), where he was Artist in Residence from 1977 to 1984. He also created digital art at the California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...

 (1985 – 1988), and Apple Computer
Apple Computer
Apple Inc. is an American multinational corporation that designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad...

 (1991). Em has worked independently since the early nineties.

Scope of Work

David Em, QED, 1998, Digital Image.

Em's art is difficult to categorize. His work spans multiple media, including all-electronic virtual worlds, filmmaking, photography, and printmaking. He has also worked with live performance and theater. Most of his work exists outside of the mainstream art world.

Stylistically, Em's art has connections to Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

, abstract painting, and experimental film
Experimental film
Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians...

. There are also often landscape and architectural elements. Some pieces feature geometric components, while others are organic in nature.

He says he "makes pictures with electronic light” and "sculpts with memory instead of space.” He also "evolves images so that they grow into and out of each other”

Some of his early works done at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1970s have deep-space related themes. In the 1980s he incorporated light effects reminiscent of the French Impressionists, and in the 1990s he introduced otherworldly lifeforms into his work. In the early Twenty-First century, an apocalyptic element appears in his imagery.

His art has been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Seibu Museum in Tokyo, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts is the only building actually built by Le Corbusier in the United States, and one of only two in the Americas...

 at Harvard, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles is a contemporary art museum with three locations in greater Los Angeles, California. The main branch is located on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, near Walt Disney Concert Hall...

. His work has appeared in popular media, including the covers of Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbert Jeffrey "Herbie" Hancock is an American pianist, bandleader and composer. As part of Miles Davis's "second great quintet," Hancock helped to redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section and was one of the primary architects of the "post-bop" sound...

's Future Shock, Sound-System
Sound-System (album)
Sound-System is the thirty-sixth album by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and the second of three albums with the Rockit Band.-About the Album:The second of the three Rockit band albums, Sound-System was another smash for Herbie Hancock....

, and Perfect Machine
Perfect Machine (album)
Perfect Machine is the thirty-seventh album by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, and the last with the Rockit Band.-About the Album:The last of the three Rockit band albums, Perfect Machine was also Hancock's final album for Columbia Records and is considered the least popular of the three Rockit band...

albums and an electronic version of William Gibson
William Gibson
William Gibson is an American-Canadian science fiction author.William Gibson may also refer to:-Association football:*Will Gibson , Scottish footballer...

’s Neuromancer
Neuromancer is a 1984 novel by William Gibson, a seminal work in the cyberpunk genre and the first winner of the science-fiction "triple crown" — the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. It was Gibson's debut novel and the beginning of the Sprawl trilogy...


External links