When Dr. Ken Knowlton first approached his boss at Bell Labs with the prospect of inventing a machine language for making movies with a computer, he was met with mild amusement. “Well, it looks like a very ambitious thing you’re proposing,” said the boss-man, presumably leaning back in his chair with a smug smile on his face and hands gently folded across his stomach, “but why don’t you see what you can do.” With this office-speak equivalent of “Knock yourself out, kid,” Knowlton set off to make his (first) masterpiece. “I was just having fun,” he says now, but the little language called BEFLIX became a hit and Knowlton became known as the inventor of the pixel. (“Nonsense” .) But invited to the Museum of Modern Art this past March, Knowlton had more to show than old computer-generated videos—all incredibly simplistic by today’s standards, though highly influential in their time—but the fruits of a second career as a mosaic artist, using computer software to create intricate portraits of cultural icons and celebrities. From a sea of shells, an image of Jacques Cousteau; from an arrangement of braille, a portrait of Helen Keller—Knowlton makes the medium the message in his choice of material, using everything from Morse code symbology (for Samuel Morse, of course) to the text of former President Barack Obama’s 2008 acceptance speech. Before departing for MoMA to face the “interrogators,” Knowlton offers a bit of advice from his own experience: the arts and sciences aren’t quite so distant as they may seem. “If they are,” he says, “they should each take a good stretch in the other’s direction and get together.