Artists in the 1990s, Manhattan Arts Magazine, March-April 1990


The International Visual Language of Rodney Chang


by Elizabeth A. Wilford


Rodney Chang's computer art is an exhilarating whirlwind of color and form with a bold look toward their future.

He holds ten college degrees in fields as diverse as zoology, dentistry, psychology, education and art. Prior to computers, he worked in painting, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, mixed media, environmental art and photography. This exceptional background enables him to draw upon a tremendous variety of images for his computer works, which cover abstracts, florals, landscape, still lifes, sea- and cityscapes, portraits and surrealism. The scope of his subjects goes all the way from Pond to Post-Industrial, from Inner Eye to Race for Space. Chang created Paint Out No. 19 - Revolution, Chinese, an oil on canvas (69 1/2 x 100"), especially for Manhattan Arts.

He creates his images using the IBM PS/2, Amiga 100 or Arche Rival 386. After he has completed a monitor image, it is reproduced as what he calls a "paint-out," in oil or acrylic on canvas, by a painter whom he selects. He welcomes the input of each painter's particular style, and believes that as a team they are creating "an international visual language of common understanding among all men." He can also photograph the image directly from the monitor or make limited edition prints from computer woodcuts. Recently he invented a new technique called "real-time painting," in which he creates the image on the monitor with one hand while a computer-linked projector and video cameras enable them simultaneously to paint the image onto canvas with his other hand.

"A fundamental dilemma exists with the work done by an artist using a computer," Chang says. "How much of the art is indebted to the machine and how much to the creativity of the person using it? Can the two be separated apart or is the image a revolutionary fusion that precipitates a new art form?"

His work also raises the issue of what we mean by an "original" work of art. He humorously calls his paintings "original copies" (as in hardcopy from the computer), since only one painting is created per monitor image.

"I believe a new aesthetic will emerge through the pioneering efforts of artists who attempt to create and relate to the machine," Chang says. "It is too powerful a tool to be merely a passing fad."

His exhibition at the Shanghai State Art Museum in 1988 was the first show of computer art EVER held in China. He is also the founder of the Soho Too Gallery and Loft in Kalihi, the industrial district of Honolulu.


His solo exhibition at the Las Vegas Art Museum will be held from March 4-31, 1990 with an opening reception on Sunday, March. A second solo exhibition will take place this year in the Forum in Gutersloh, West Germany.