Jim Campbell was born in Chicago and moved to San Francisco after earning degrees in Mathematics and Engineering from MIT. He transitioned from filmmaking to interactive video installations in the mid-1980s and began using LEDs as a primary medium in 2000. His custom electronic sculptures and installations have made him a leading figure in using computer technology as an art form.
Campbell’s work is unique in that his media and message are inseparable. He uses technologies developed for information transfer and storage to explore human perception and memory.
Campbell’s work typically involves pixilated representations created with grids of LEDs, which have such low perceived resolution as to defy comprehension. Exploring the line between representation and abstraction, Campbell plumbs the human ability to interpret information and “fill in the gaps” necessary to create a complete idea. His exploration of the distinction between the analog world and its digital representation metaphorically parallels the difference between poetic understanding or “knowledge” versus the mathematics of “data.”
Jim Campbell’s work has been exhibited worldwide at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The International Center for Photography, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Chronus Art Center, Shanghai; Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia. His work is in numerous museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Whitney Museum of American Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Berkeley Art Museum. Honors include a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Award in Multimedia, three Langlois Foundation Grants, and a Guggenheim Fellowship Award. He has two Bachelor of Science Degrees in Mathematics and Engineering from MIT and, as an engineer, holds nearly twenty patents in video image processing. His 2018 piece, Day for Night, is a permanent LED installation that comprises the top nine floors of the 61-story Salesforce Tower in San Francisco.