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John F. Simon Jr.

Unfolding Moments

Nov 15th 2020 - Jan 15th 2021


Curator: Hua Zhao

Project Supervisor: Elaine Qiu

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As a pioneer of software art, John F. Simon Jr. has explored new media art and challenged traditional notions of painting and drawing since the mid-1980s. Simon’s way of creating art is quite unique: he starts with drawings and makes the drawing process the object of meditation instead of identifying a subject beforehand. He revisits his improvisational drawings—which he calls “divination drawings”—and reworks these ideas, often by programming. Simon considers programming as a two-fold kind of creative writing, first in the sense of writing poems or stories but secondly recognizing that the computer screen is where the program creates images. In this way, Simon discovers a world full of surprises and novelty. The meanings of his artworks are open-ended and imbued with possibilities.

John F. Simon Jr.: Unfolding Moments | The Drawing Room

John F. Simon Jr. departs from the artistic tradition of creating one-of-a-kind images in favor of crafting one-of-a-kind computer programs, each of which quickly generates a wealth of images. Simon, who makes drawings on paper as well as computer-animated, wall-mounted panels and Web projects, draws inspiration from artists such as Paul Klee and Sol LeWitt, whose work alludes to or invokes rule-based, algorithm-like procedures. Simon is particularly interested in the way that the visual experiments of these artists can be automated and accelerated using digital technologies.

——“John F. Simon Jr. Unfolding Object,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York


[Left] John F. Simon Jr., White Medusa. 2006.

[Right] John F. Simon Jr., Red Medusa. 2006.

Formica on board. 17 x 17 in.

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Simon explores different materials and textures in White Medusa and Red Medusa. The laser cutter makes it possible for Simon to create works of art that mirror each other but are distinct from each other. The name of Medusa not only recalls the vicious goddess but also indicates a type of computer cable sharing the same name. “Medusa” connects the mythical realm and the modern world, bridging gaps in historical times seamlessly.

John F. Simon Jr., Branching Growth, 2007.

Gouache on paper. 22 x 30 in. 

John F. Simon Jr., Unfolding Planet, 2007.

Gouache on paper. 22 x 30 in.