R. Luke DuBois, Artist of Algorithms, Shows Work at the Smithsonian


The artists featured in Multiplicity, a recent exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, read like a who’s who of major 20th-century artists: Kiki Smith, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Brice Marden, Barbara Kreuger, Chuck Close, Louise Bourgeois, David Hockney, Kara Walker, and Helen Frankenthaler.

R. Luke DuBois, assistant professor of integrated digital media in NYU-Poly’s Technology, Culture, and Society Department, was on the list, too—the youngest artist featured.

His work, Hindsight Is Always 20/20, was one of the museum’s most recent acquisitions. It holds all 12 sets of the 43 prints that compose the piece, and the work is based on a statistical analysis of State of the Union addresses made by the first 43 presidents of the United States. Each print represents the 66 words most used by each president, with the words laid out like an eye chart.

“The idea is to riff on vision,” explains DuBois. “We talk about historical characters based on their vision: ‘That person was a visionary.’ ”

Hindsight also illustrates the history of the United States through presidential rhetoric. George Washington’s most frequently used word, for example, was “gentleman,” while George W. Bush’s was “terror.”

DuBois debuted Hindsight at the Republican National Convention during the presidential election year of 2008. It is composed of two parts, and the second of the two—a sculptural work of 41 lightboxes standing more than six feet tall apiece—debuted at the Democratic National Convention in the same year.

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