Karen Schiff at BravinLee Programs

At their Chelsea gallery, BravinLee has a vitrine dedicated to the display of Book Arts. Works that address the topics of typography and linguistics are considered part of the Book Arts genre. Currently on display are recent prints by Karen Schiff. These works are created using alphabetic and numeric rubber stamps. The artist prints on various types of commercial stamp album graph paper in a very small scale grid.

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Karen Schiff – “oOo” 2015 Ink graphite, and watercolor on stamp album paper
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

“oOo” from 2015 is a type of tiling constructed out of zeros and capital letter O’s. The artist takes advantage of the two-fold rotational symmetry of these forms. By rotating the figures 90 degrees and overlapping the edges, Schiff has filled the rectangular plane with ellipses. This print is an exploration of the geometry of these two typographic elements.

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Karen Schiff – “mmm…” 2014 Ink, graphite, and gouache on stamp album paper
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

“mmm…” made in 2014 is composed using only one type of rummer stamp, the lower case “m”. At first glance, the image appears to be a horizontal rows of vertical marks, but upon closer inspection you see the top curves of the m’s. What makes these rows of m’s interesting is the fact that the letters have no symmetry, but lined up appear to create a consistent pattern.

Schiff hand stamps each of these letters individually to form detailed images. The imperfections of the printing process create slight discrepancies in the patterns. This is an important part of Schiffs artistic process. By removing the letters and numbers from a traditional text format of works or calculations they lose their direct linguistic and numeric connotations, becoming abstract forms. This allows the viewer to explore the abstract shapes geometrically. We look at numbers and letters all day with out thinking mathematically about their shapes. In this his new series of prints Schiff has invited us to look at numbers and letters in a different way.

Susan Happersett

Geometry at the Armory Show

For one week each March New York City becomes the epicenter of the contemporary international art world. There are at least 6 art fairs all running pretty much simultaneously. The largest is the Armory Show. It is too huge to fit in the Armory so it takes place on two huge piers on the Hudson river. Over one hundred gallerists form all over  the planet set up exhibitions rooms to showcase the their inventory. The opening night is a very noisy, crowded and rather intimidating event. I saw quite a bit of art with Mathematical subject matter. For this blog entry I have decided to focus on three works that are about Geometry.

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Gabriel de la Mora at Sicardi Gallery

Sicardi Gallery from Houston Texas featured this amazing construction by Gabriel de la Mora at the entrance to their booth. This work is a nod to minimalist paintings from the 1960’s and 70’s but with a twist. It is composed of match boxes.The red brick shaped rectangles that make up this work are actually the red phosphorous paper you find on the striker of a match box. This unexpected choice of material makes us look at the repetitive nature of the geometry with a more emotionally charged reference point. Adding the element of fire changes the theme of the work, but the geometry stays true to the Minimalist roots.  La Mora’s background as an architect is apparent in the precision involved in the creating the parallel lines to form the concentric rectangles. This work also has both a horizontal as well as a vertical line of symmetry.

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Julio Le Parc Galeria Nara Roesler

The large mobile installation by the famous Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc at the Galeria Nara Roesler (Sao Paulo) is a sphere composed of small flat rectangular acrylic shapes. There is a great sense of movement in this sculpture, and the semi-transparent yellow pieces of acrylic play with the light. It almost seems like magic that a grid of rectangles can render such a lively sphere.

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Claudia Wieser at Sies+Hoke Galerie

Claudia Wieser’s ceramic wall installation takes center stage at Sies +Hoke Galerie from Düsseldorf, Germany. The images of this work feature a right triangle, an isosceles triangle, as well as two circles. It seems to pay homage to a geometry text book. What I find visually interesting in this piece is the use of tiles, which creates a secondary underlying square grid. This grid is instrumental in the coloring of the large circle.

I have been attending the Armory Show for years. In past shows there were times when there was very little presence of Mathematics in the art work presented, but this year I was quite pleased to find  a number of interesting examples.

Susan

Sarah Stengle – Inspirational Conics

I look at a lot of art and I find quite a bit of work with Mathematical elements, but when I find new art inspired by a book of Mathematical proofs and figures I get really excited. Stengle’s new and ongoing series of drawings is based on Apollonius of Perga’s book “Conic Books I-IV”.  Apolonius of Perga (262BC-109BC) was an ancient Greek geometrist who is famous for his innovated work in the mathematical field of conics. He explored the properties of conic sections and furthered our understanding of ellipses, parabolas, and hyperbolas.

Stengle has been collecting vintage postcards for a year. These postcards serve as the background image for her drawings. The choice of postcards is very important, as the artist looks for older non-glossy cards that can be drawn on. The subject matter on the card must also be fairly uninteresting visually so they can support but not over power Stengle’s mathematical imagery.

Each drawing is based on a proposition from “Conics Books I-IV”. There are three types of cards in this series. Some of the cards feature an accurate figure from a proposition in the book. In this case the book and proposition are written on the back of the card. Some of the other drawings have deviations from the figures in the book, but the aesthetics are interesting. Here the artist uses the work, and states the proposition and the fact there is a error on the back of the card. Finally, there are drawings that are imaginary propositions inspired by a particular figure.

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“Perga Moraine Lake 72″

The card “Perga Moraine Lake 72″ is the third type of card: it features an imaginary proposition. The artist had started to draw an Apolonius of Perga proof, but stopped at a point when the drawing reached a point of aesthetic completion. From the tip of the cone to its elliptical base, the mathematical figure leads the viewer’s eye from the mountain peaks in the landscape behind the lake to the shoreline.

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“Post Card from Perga, Book 1, Proposition 2 Third Image”

This second Post card from Perga, “Book 1, Proposition 2 Third Image” shows the third of the four figures in the proposition. The background card is an overexposed photo card of a horse . The uneven quality of the card could be due to the fact it was probably made to promote the sale of the horse. This card features a figure drawn directly from the text with no changes. The axis of symmetry of the mathematical figure goes through the center of the animal.

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“Lilac Conics Book 1 Proposition 4″

“Lilac Conics, Book 1 proposition 4″ is also an accurate representation of the proposition in  Apollonius of Perga’s book. The four conics are lined up along a beach mimicking the points of the masts of the fishermen’s boats.

Using carefully selected appropriated images as the backdrop for her geometric figures, Stengle has created a link between her mathematical subject matter and the world around us. The basis of the Perga post cards is an ancient text and the actual cards are vintage. When combined these elements lead to a sort of suspension of time. This series of work is a wonderful expression of the timeless aesthetics of Apollonius of Perga’s conic geometry.

Susan Happersett

David Scanavino at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Since its inception Aldrich has been committed to the collection and display of modern art, including some of the most important work in the areas of Minimalism, Conceptual, and Geometric art. The founder Larry Aldrich acquired the work of Eva Hess, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and many others. For the 50th anniversary a two part exhibition has been installed in the galleries over the past year. The curators have created a connection between the historical artwork from the early years of  the museum to contemporary art. Artists were asked to respond to the work from the 1960’s and 1970’s.
David Scanavino’s site-specific  room-sized installation “Imperial Texture” is the artist’s dialog with the work of Richard Artschwager. Artschwager is well known for his use of formica to make geometric forms that have the same shape as everyday items but can not actually be used as such. His sculpture “Pyramid Object” from 1967 was displayed near Scanavino’s installation.

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“Imperial Texture” 2014
Courtesy of the artist and the museum

“Imperial Texture” consists of a grid of 1 by 1 foot square linoleum tiles that have been installed into the gallery at an angle so that they come off the floor and climb the walls. The tiling pattern was developed using computer software to make a digital model. This fact alone would make this a mathematically interesting piece. But what I find mathematically inspirational about this environment is the impact of a 2-D grid being retrofit into the  3-D rectangular box. The  traditional gallery space has a multicolored seemingly random patterned floor, that has been shifted leaving part of the floor uncovered. Scanavino’s decision to place the grid at an angle has created series of right triangles with their hypotenuses running along the lines where the walls meet the floors. “Imperial Texture” gives the museum visitor an altered sense of space. The linoleum floor we are accustomed to seeing on the floors of schools, stores and other industrial and institutional settings has shifted out of it’s practical floor covering purpose.

Susan Happersett

Audrey Stone at Umbrella Arts

The Umbrella Arts Gallery in the East Village is presenting a show titled “Off the Grid”, which features work that is created using a grid formation, or is displayed in a grid presentation.  Audrey Stone works with thread to produce  fine line patterns. Her work in this exhibition offers elegant representations of squares and grids.
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The thread drawing on paper “blue X” comprises of an 8 by 8 square grid. Each square has thirteen line segments radiating from one of its corners to points on the opposite sides of the square. The drawing has four-fold rotational symmetry. To achieve this symmetry, the artist has chosen from which corner of each grid square the line segments radiate. In the squares located in the upper left quarter of the drawing, the lower right corner is the point of where all thirteen line segments meet. In the upper right quarter of the work the lower left corner of each grid square is the radiating point. The lower left quarter of the drawing has the line segments all go to the upper right corner. And finally in the lower right quarter, the line segments radiate from the upper left corner.

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“The Lion and the Lamb” is a sewn painting, created with thread and paint on stretched linen. This work is more directly related to squares and the parallel lines of concentric squares. The top half of the piece shows half of a series of cencentric sqaures and uses paint. The form at the bottom of the canvas shows a series of complete concentric squares and is is sewn with thread onto the canvas.

Stone’s use of thread to create the lines in her drawings relates to traditional women’s needle work, but her subject matter is based in mathematical geometry.

“Off the grid” is on display at Umbrella Arts, 317 east 9th St until February 28. It is definitely worth a trip to the East Village.

Susan

Paul Pagk at 33 Orchard Gallery

Paul Pagk is a critically acclaimed  NY painter who work deals with abstract geometries. The 33 Orchard gallery is exhibiting a selection of his recent works on paper. Titled “November Drawings” this entire series of work was produced during November 2014. Tacked unframed onto the gallery walls, the work consists of a series of abstractions created in graphite, ink, oil pastel, pencil, pen, watercolor, and gouache.
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The drawings were created in a prolific progression: the artist completing up to twenty works per day. They relate to the themes in Pagk’s painting practice. The works on paper seem to visualize the artist’s stream of consciousness. The mind to paper immediacy creates an exciting and fresh take on geometry. The work at 33 Orchard have a much more sketchy and expressive quality then some of the artists work on canvas. Many of the drawings in this show have Mathematical elements.
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This work consists on a red and black rectangular grid with both horizontal and vertical lines of reflection symmetry. The red spaces do not have clean edges instead the pigment goes out beyond the sides of the rectangle. The black lines that make up horizontal and vertical markings give the work a sense of movement. You can really see the hand of the artist.
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A 2-D rendering of the outline of a 3-D rectangular prism, this work has a band of purple as a background. The delicate black line drawing is in the foreground. An extra vertical plain is sketched through the prism and out beyond the purple band. This vertical element, in conjunction with the 3-D object, seems to allude to the Cartesian coordinate system. I feel Pagk’s success in producing such large selection of work so quickly and thoughtfully is due to his dedication to his painting practice. The “November Drawings” are a more direct and tactile representation of mathematical ideas. In my own drawing process I refer to my mark making as mathematical meditations, and I think this description also applies to Pagk’s month of drawing.

Susan

Caroline Bergvall at Callicoon Fine Arts

A solo exhibition entitled “Drift” by c is currently installed at Callicoon Fine Arts Gallery on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The show is made up of a diverse selection of work, addressing the plight of refugees lost and perishing at sea. Bergvall has published an artist book also titled “Drift” with Nightboat Books. Although the theme of the art included in this exhibition is not mathematic, one of the pieces in the show does have a mathematical component.

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Courtesy of the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts, NY

The video “Seafarer” from 2014 consists of electronic text that floats in and out of view in a 17-minute loop. The sequence of textual images has been produced using algorithms to determine which words appear at each moment in time and and space. The words in video take on an ghostly presence as they move in and out of focus. When discussing the topic of Mathematical Art, I feel that it is important to include work that has been produced or generated by mathematical algorithms. Although the subject matter of Bergvall’s body of work is not Math, the use of mathematics was essential in creating the ethereal and emotionally moving environment to present her text.

Susan Happersett

Metro Curates

Every January there are a whole host of Art and Antique Fairs in NYC. One of my favorites is the Metro Curates Show. This event features dealers that together present a broad eclectic selection: Ethnographic Art, 20th century Modernist abstract paintings, folk art, as well as new work by contemporary artists.

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Constantine Karron, Untitled, 1940’s
ink on paper, 16 x 13 in.
Picture courtesy of Ricco Maresca Gallery

In the Ricco Maresca Gallery booth I found this amazing grid of drawings made in the 1940’s by Constantine Karron. These intricate works were all handmade using basic drafting tools. All but one of the 16 drawings are circles or regular polygons. The elaborate decorations feature rotational symmetries of varying degrees up to 16-fold. The precision and detail in these drawings is amazing. The only work that does not feature a circle or a regular polygon and  has only 2-fold rotational symmetry is the drawing in the third column from the left, and is the third down from the top of the grid. This is a drawing of an irregular 16-sided polygon (hexadecagon) that has both horizontal and vertical lines of reflection symmetry. Ricco Maresca Gallery is displaying and selling these works as a group. Although each of the drawings is very interesting on its own, together they have an even more powerful visual impact.

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Annette Cords, “Combined Operations”, 2012
handwoven jacquard tapestry
Picture courtesy of Umbrella Arts

Annette Cords’ handwoven jacquard tapestry “Combined Operations” from 2012 was on display at the Umbrella Arts booth. I was immediately drawn into their space when I saw the geodesic spheres woven into this work. Cords also creates paintings and installations all dealing with systems of information and physics. The geometry of the spheres are quite clear but the jacquard weaving technique gives the lines a nice sketch quality. The lunar background gives the work an ethereal presence.
I spoke with Umbrella Arts gallerist and curator Margaret Bodell about my interest in Art and Mathematics and she gave me a preview of some of the amazing work that will be featured in the next show at their gallery in lower Manhattan.  The exhibition is titled “Off the Grid” and it will take place from February 5th to February 28th. I will definitely be heading downtown to see and review the show. I know already there will be art with interesting Mathematical connections.

Susan

Jan Schoonhoven at David Zwirner

The David Zwirner Gallery’s 20th Street branch in Chelsea is presenting a large show of the work by one of the most influential Dutch artists of the last half of the twentieth century, Jan Schoonhoven. A member of the Nul Groep in Holland, Schoonhoven was connected to the international art movement “ZERO Group”. The artist members of these groups worked to develop a type of art that was more objective then the more emotionally expressive art created after WWII. Schoonhoven established techniques to create monochromatic wall sculptures that relied on clean geometric lines to explore form,light, and shadows.

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Jan Schoonhoven – “R70-28″ – 1970

The rectangular grids like the ones seen in “R70-28″ from 1970 are probably the types of structures that became most famous. A square relief sculpture with 5 columns with ten rows each. The white walls are the grid lines, creating rectangles with a 1:2 ratio of height to width. The exhibition at David Zwirner is quite inclusive and includes works on paper, earlier geometric work, as well as work featuring more complex geometry.

Schoonhoven used latex paint, paper, cardboard and wood to assemble these sculptures. The hand of the artist has given these 3-D spaces an ageless quality. Although the geometry is all straight edges there is a softness to the lines of these shadow boxes.

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Jan Schoonhoven – “R69-33″

The work “R69-33″ from 1969 has a rather complex pattern made up of trapezoidal surfaces. They are positioned into rows with horizontal axes of symmetry. The longer side of each trapezoid is closest to the viewer. This work offers a dramatic example of Schoonhoven’s use of shadows.

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Jan SChoonhoven – “Diagonalen” – 1967

“Diagonalen” from 1967 is one of my favorite pieces in the show. The grid format is intact but by bisecting each grid square on alternating diagonals the artist has created a lattice of right triangles. One of the most exciting elements of Schoonhoven’s wall sculptures is that they change depending on the angle from which you see the art. As the viewer moves around the gallery the shadows are changing.

All pictures courtesy of the gallery.

Susan Happersett

Warren Isensee at Danese Corey Gallery

The Danese Corey Gallery is currently exhibiting the abstract geometric paintings of Warren Isensee. The artist uses a playful vocabulary of color to achieve an exciting sense of light. The straight edges are all hand painted without the aid of taping and Isensee uses adjacent colors that create enough tension that the work pulses with energy.

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“Dark Heart”, 2014

The large square canvas “Dark Heart” provides an interesting perspective on the grid. Floating in a field of steel blue, the yellow black and red figure is made up of solid and striped squares. Alternating from horizontal to vertical of striped squares, the patterning draws the viewer’s eye to the two central horizontal bands. This work features both horizontal an vertical axises of symmetry through its center .

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“Surface Noise”

“Surface Noise” offers the viewer an optical trick. At first glance it appears to have a nice neat four-fold rotational symmetry. The artist has painstaking created detailed elements of the composition that possess four-fold rotational symmetrical patterns. Only after close inspection you realize that the small center form is a rectangle and not a square. This painting has horizontal and vertical axises of symmetry, but it is not four-fold rotational symmetry. I think the slight deviation makes “Surface Noise” more interesting. It becomes a commentary on the visual expectations of symmetry.

Pictures courtesy of the gallery and the artist.

More math art next time

Susan