In 1989, New York artist Gretchen Bender deconstructed the American flag. She divided the flag’s red and white stripes by large blocks of black paint. While some herald its importance for the comment it made on a divided country, it was also of note for its early adoption of the new media art movement that followed.

This piece and more will be on view as part of Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today, an exhibition of 60 artists opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston on 7 February.

“It’s a show about how the internet has affected art,” said curator Eva Respini. “It’s not just for digital natives.”

Back in 1989, the internet was just for those in the know. British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee first invented the world wide web when he wrote the fundamental specks of HTML, URI and HTTP – the stuff of browsers today.

But through the lens of art, technology tells a completely different story. “Just as the internet has affected dating, travel and the way we see ourselves and understand the truth,” said Respini, “we see a lot of changes in how we view older art forms, like painting, today.”

Don’t expect a bunch of screens around the gallery space; it’s more than just so-called “digital art”. “The canvas is the oldest virtual medium, oldest screen there is,” said Respini, who has included the paintings of Michel Majerus and Avery Singer.

The exhibition highlights ground-breaking media art from the 1990s, like Naim June Paik’s Internet Dream, a wall of 52 TV monitors created in 1994 – a year when many people didn’t even know the internet existed. Also on view is Imagination Dead Imagine, a 1991 video installation by Judith Barry where the human form is wrapped around a cube of video screens. Read more