David Em

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Most Recent Affiliation(s):

  • Independent Artist


  • Los Angeles, California, United States of America



  • 2023
    David Em was born in Los Angeles in 1952, and soon after moved with his parents and older sister to South America, where he grew up without television. The family moved to the East Coast of the US when David was a teenager. He returned to California in 1972, where he set up his first art studio in San Francisco and started working with analog synthesizers.

    At 22, he heard the word “digital” for the first time, and in 1975, at the age of 23, he created his first digital artwork at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Completely immersed in experimental digital art, in 1976 David built articulated 3D creatures with mainframes at Information International Incorporated. In 1977 he became the Artist-in-Residence at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology until 1988. Here he produced generative artworks and the first virtual worlds created by an artist.

    While at JPL, the SIGGRAPH annual meetings provided a vital resource and community for David where over the years he exhibited his art and served as a seminar presenter, panelist, and film show juror. He co-produced the historic 1981 SIGGRAPH frame buffer show in Dallas, where pixel images were exhibited electronically for the first time. David’s work has since the late 1970s been presented in museums, conferences, and institutions around the world.

    In 1991, David worked with personal computers at Apple’s Advanced Technology Group (ATG) establishing his first contact with commercial software. Following this, in 1995 he started constructing his own personal computers to push the frontiers of digital art.

    Recently David’s art has incorporated components of AI, something David predicted in 1977 would fundamentally transform the art of the future. In 2023, he became the first digital artist whose ephemera was collected by the Smithsonian Archive of American Art.

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