Charles A. Csuri: Hand

  • ©1965, Charles A. Csuri





Creation Year:





    119 x 102 cm (47 x 40 in)


Artist Statement:

    The Artwork: A Recording of Decisions Taken

    What is evident and easy for any artist–to draw a smooth line or a three-dimensional opaque origami swallow, showing only those contours perceptible to the observer and hiding the others–is very difficult to realize if you have to atomize those processes into single steps and instruct a computer digit per digit. As Friedrich Nietzsche claimed, we can understand only a universe that we have constructed completely ourselves. Early developers in computer graphics learned slowly to understand the universe of human visual production and perception, at least a small part of it.

    Charles Csuri took up this task systematically and enhanced the computer as an artistic tool, first working with an IBM 1130, then with a PDP 11/ 45. Constructing a tool presupposes the analysis of the production process. Csuri, the artist, was prepared. He followed up an aesthetic interest rooted in his study with impressionist painters John Hopkins and Hoyt Sherman, who taught him to understand Monet, Cezanne, Braque, and Picasso–an interest in the structure of artworks and the decision­procedures involved in their production. Since the 1960s, Csuri studied the relationship between idea, decision, and physical production, as well as the effects of the art object on the observer. By 1961, he had developed a form of conceptual word poems, anticipating methods of conceptual art that emerged only a few years later. Csuri’s methods allowed him to replace a painting with its verbal description. “The notion of nonvisual cues, such as words, as the art object was of interest to me,” Csuri remembers. Hand, a later example of this series from 1965, offers the observer only the verbal description of a hand, challenging the different modes of information communicable by image and words:

    Here is a hand–
    a hand of a thin, ninety nine
    year old man. The skin is
    pinkish in color and the network
    of veins are clear. The movements
    of his fingers and thumb
    are slow and stiff and one can
    almost hear the crackling of
    joints. His hand is rough in
    texture and feels warm.

    Csuri used words to define an image in the mind of the ob­server. As a programmer, he would use numbers to define images drawn with electrons on the screen of a cathode-ray tube. Words and numbers stepped into the mimetic, painterly depiction of the world.

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