Making Art Work

Making Art Work

How Cold War Engineers and Artists Forged a New Creative Culture

By W. Patrick McCray

The creative collaborations of engineers, artists, scientists, and curators over the past fifty years.





The creative collaborations of engineers, artists, scientists, and curators over the past fifty years.

Artwork as opposed to experiment? Engineer versus artist? We often see two different cultural realms separated by impervious walls. But some fifty years ago, the borders between technology and art began to be breached. In this book, W. Patrick McCray shows how in this era, artists eagerly collaborated with engineers and scientists to explore new technologies and create visually and sonically compelling multimedia works. This art emerged from corporate laboratories, artists' studios, publishing houses, art galleries, and university campuses. Many of the biggest stars of the art world—Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, Andy Warhol, Carolee Schneemann, and John Cage—participated, but the technologists who contributed essential expertise and aesthetic input often went unrecognized.

Coming from diverse personal backgrounds, this roster of engineers and scientists includes Frank J. Malina, the American rocket-pioneer turned kinetic artist who launched the art-science journal Leonardo, and Swedish-born engineer Billy Klüver, who established the group Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T). At schools ranging from MIT to Caltech, engineers engaged with such figures as artist Gyorgy Kepes and celebrity curator Maurice Tuchman.

Today, we are in the midst of a new surge of corporate and academic promotion of projects and programs combining art, technology, and science. Making Art Work reveals how artists and technologists have continually constructed new communities in which they exercise imagination, display creative expertise, and pursue commercial innovation.


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262044257 384 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 52 figures


  • Patrick McCray's excellent new book, Making Art Work [...] provides a comprehensive history of postwar artistic and scientific collaborations in the United States.



  • Come for the history, stay for the fascinating art: in this thoughtful and engaging study, McCray sets aside cultural polemics to focus on how collaborations between artists and engineers rewired notions of creativity, emphasizing the labor required to do so.

    Michael D. Gordin

    Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, Princeton University

  • A truly impressive achievement. Not only the best introduction to the big onrush of art and technology from the Cold War to the counterculture, but one that also offers a wealth of new insights to dedicated students of the period by taking the vantage point of engineers.

    Douglas Kahn

    author of Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts

  • Shedding new light on canonical figures and elucidating the less familiar contributions of others, such as Frank Malina and Elsa Garmire, Patrick McCray's history of the art and technology movement of the 1960s distills questions and lessons that testify to its ongoing relevance for the arts, industry, and academe today.

    Anne Collins Goodyear

    Codirector, Bowdoin College Museum of Art