James Siena has had a successful career creating algorithmically created abstract paintings. Some of his most recent work involves using manual typewriters and are on display at the Sargent’s Daughters Gallery on The Lower East side. Using a typewriter to create art is not a new phenomenon. For over a century artists have been experimenting with typewriters. The Bauhaus artist H.N. Werkman and the poets of the Concrete Poetry Movement of the 1960’s are good examples.
Siena creates mathematical visual poetry, using algorithms to determine which typewriter keys are pushed, and in which order. Instead of a pen, pencil, or brush with ink, lead or paint, Siena uses the the depression of the type writer keys and red or black typewriter ribbons to execute his mark making.
The drawing “Untitled (0-9, ten, eight, six, four, three, two, one)” features vertical zigzag pattern that is created by the visual variations of the digits. There are horizontal lines of reflection symmetry running through the chevron pattern.
In the work “Untitled (Flat Helix)” – a helix is a coil curve – the artist engages the viewer in an interesting counting exercise. The first row is all ones. The next ones and twos. the third row is ones, twos and threes. This continues until the digits go from one through nine and then zero. Below this solid section of text, the pattern changes with a row of all ones, then all twos, etc. Farther down the page spaces and shifts are introduced to the drawing adding zigzag elements.
I can only imagine the amount of planning and rule development required before Siena hit the first type writer key. The elegant patterns and poetry Siena coaxed from the manual printing process of these machines is amazing.