while robert irwin and the others of the cool school were playing with light and space out in california (see below) kenneth Knowlton at the bell labs in new jersey was creating works that would have just as long lasting consequences . it was a time when many artists and scientists engaged in collaborations to expand their fields of work and break down some of the walls of their thinking. irwin and james turrell working with ed wortz of the garrett aerospace corporation engaged in a collaboration that profoundly changed the direction of the work of all three men.
ken knowlton engaged in collaborations over the years with people such as leon harmon, stan vanderbeek , lillian schwartz that may have been equally interesting. the optical structure of the computer data used in both the printouts and the films he helped create has helped form the basis of much of todays visual imagery and is the basis of the vocabulary of a great deal of new media art.
knowlton and leon harmon produced the image above of a nude ( studies in Perception I ) in 1966 from a photograph taken by max mathews. and I think it may be the most underrated artwork of the last 100 years. like titian's venus of urbino, giorgione's sleeping venus [dresden venus] , and edouard manet's olympia , knowlton and harmon's nude harnessed the most sophisticated technique and vision of their day to create something pretty unique. you can read more it and about ken here and here.
[image from Ken Knowlton’s EXPLOR program 1969 : 'Studies in Perception I 1966 : kenneth knowlton and leon harmon]