Xerox Art: the creative technique that exploited the distorting effects and colors of modern copy machines



The Xerox 914, the first successful plain paper copy machine in history, hit the US market in 1959.

Exceptionally innovative for its time, this copier marked a new era in printing because it finally made it possible to copy books, documents and pictures cheaply, easily, and in no time at all.

The copy machine manufactured by the Xerox Corporation was sold by the thousands, thanks at least in part to extensive advertising campaigns that used monkeys to demonstrate how simple it was to use. After all, even they could make copies with the simple press of a button.

In the 1960s, equipment of this type became widespread in advanced economies, especially once it began to be used in offices and schools.

After a short while, in 1961 to be precise, creatives began to experiment with copy machines and visual artists also became fascinated with this powerful, affordable, copy-factory.

Xerox art, sometimes also called copy art, was a creative practice that was used by a multitude of North American and European artists in the 1960s and 1970s.

In essence, the term Xerox Art refers to experimentation with the distorting effects and changes in color that can be obtained by the unorthodox use of copy machines.

Many techniques have been tested over time by “copy artists,” from combined photocopies of images taken from magazines to copies of real objects or even portions of the human body such as hands, feet, and parts of the face, obtained by placing them directly on the glass surface of the photocopier.

Some of the artists that have manipulated images taken from magazines and other published materials in various genres via a Xerox machine are: Pati Hill, Wallace Berman, Laurie Rae Chamberlain, Tim Head, Sonia Sheridan and Bruno Munari.

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