Roman Verostko, co-founder of the Algorists, identifies with first- generation pioneers of computer art who create original algorithms for generating their art.
Born in 1929 in Tarrs, Pennsylvania and schooled as an illustrator at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (1947-49), his interests turned to monastic life at Saint Vincent Archabbey in 1950. In the following nine years he avidly pursued studies in philosophy, theology and history acquiring a deep understanding of the scholastic syllogism and logical argument.
This study complemented his deep interest in spirituality and the nature of interior experience. As an ordained priest in 1959, Verostko was sent to New York and Paris where he pursued further study in art history and studio practice. This learning informed both his art projects at St Vincent and his later pioneer work with algorithmic art. Many of the inquiries that have been central to Verostko’s artistic practice originate from his time here at Saint Vincent.
In 1968, Verostko left the monastery and joined the humanities faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In 1970, following an introduction to programming language at the Control Data Institute in Minneapolis and a summer at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies in Boston, he saw the awesome leverage of algorithms executed with computers. Within a decade he converted his studio into an “electronic scriptorium” with computers and drawing machines known as “pen plotters”. Guided by Verostko’s algorithms these plotters generated drawings unlike anything he had ever seen before. For him, the computer served as a pathway to new frontiers of form and he committed his studio entirely to exploring this new frontier. Verostko’s experimental process of writing computer code for creative purposes would occupy his studio practice for decades. Perennially interested in semiotics, philosophy, and cross- cultural exchange, Verostko’s work exists at the nexus of creativity and technological innovation.
His work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Block Museum at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL; Spalding University in Louisville, KY; Tama Art University Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; and the ZKM: Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany.
Verostko has been included in the following international exhibitions and accompanying publications: Genetic Art—Artificial Life (1993), CODE—The Language of Our Time (2003), The Algorithmic Revolution (ZKM, 2005), and V&A Patterns: Digital Pioneers (2009). In addition, he was featured in Lynn Gamwell’s Mathematics in Art: A Cultural History (2015). He also figures prominently in Grant D. Taylor’s book When the Machine-Made Art: The Troubled History of Computer Art (2014) and in a related exhibition organized by Taylor, The American Algorists: Linear Sublime. His work was included in the summer 2017 Venice exhibition Algorithmic Signs, curated by Francesca Franco, and most recently in the international exhibitions Chance and Control: Art in the Age of Computers at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Coder le monde at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
He has received significant recognition from organizations that have supported the development of digital art, including a 1993 Honorary Mention for the Prix Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria), a 1994 Golden Plotter first prize (Gladbeck Germany), a Recommendatory Prize from Portrait by Mehram Karimi, Woodlake, Richfield, MN, 2017 ARTEC’95 (Nagoya, Japan), a 2009 SIGGRAPH Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement and induction into the inaugural class of the SIGGRAPH Academy, 2018.
Roman Verostko, Epigenesis: Growth of Form (⅙ model), 1996, algorithmic pen and brush plotter drawings with hand-applied gold leaf, 18 x 76 in., model for mural in the Frey Science and Engineering Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN., Saint Vincent College Collection, Photo: Rik Sferra.
Over the course of his career, Verostko’s work has appeared in over a hundred exhibitions nationally and internationally, and to date, he has twenty-two published articles on subjects ranging from a 1964 paper on abstract liturgical art to his 1988 ISEA paper identifying the biological analogues to generative art.
Through his pursuit of pure abstraction, electronic media, and systems of logic and language, Verostko’s creative output over the past seventy years remains vast. Thanks to several transformational gifts, Saint Vincent proudly boasts the largest collection of Verostko’s work in the world. Items in Saint Vincent’s holdings span the entirety of the artist’s oeuvre, ranging from commissioned murals and interactive sculpture to pen-plotted drawings and time-based media projects.
In Fall 2020 Saint Vincent College opened the Verostko Center for the Arts. Located inside the Dale P. Latimer Library, the expanded 9,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility features four distinct exhibition areas, a video-presentation space, administrative offices, and climate-controlled storage for Saint Vincent’s collection of art, rare books, and archive. The Center stands as an enduring testament to the vital contributions Verostko has made both locally and internationally.