Math Art in Finland

Last week the Bridges organization held their annual conference in Jyväskylä, Finland. This international conference features lectures and workshops that highlight the connections between mathematics, music, art, architecture, education and culture. My favorite part of the five day event is the art exhibition. This year there was a wide range of styles, techniques and mediums on display. it is difficult to select only a few for this blog but I will try.


Sharol Nau

Sharol Nau repurposes unwanted hard cover books to create sculptures that contain parabolas. A parabola is a curve with reflective symmetry, in which each point on the curve is the same distance from a fixed focus point and a fixed line. The artist  carefully measures and folds each page to the common focus point. The resulting portable sculpture preserves the exterior shape of the book but creates a new visual story for the interior.



Nithikul Nimkulrat – “Black & White Striped Knots” – Knotted paper – 2015

Nithikul Nimkulrat hand-knots sculptures using paper string. Inspired by mathematical knot diagrams, the artist employs two colors of string to better indicate the positions of each stand within the knot structures.”Black & White Striped Knots”examines properties of knotted textiles.


Nithikul Nimkulrat – “Black & White Striped Knots” – Knotted paper – 2015 (Detail)

Looking closely at the work, the circular patterns emerge. Overlapping circles cross to form four equal arcs. This creates a series of monotone circles with the arcs of adjacent circles forming a pattern with order-4 rotational symmetry. Nimkulrat’s intricate structure is a wonderful exploration of the mathematical possibilities in textile and fiber art.

Susan Happersett

“Explode Every Day” at MASS MoCA

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary is featuring an 11 month exhibition titled “Explode Every Day – An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder”. This title is in reference to the Ray Bradbury quote:

You remain invested in your inner child by exploding every day. You don’t worry about the future, you don’t worry about the past-you just explode.

(from Sam Weller, Listen to the echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, 2010)

This exhibition is a reaction to our current, fast, information society. It challenges the viewer slow down and take in less information but experience it in a deeper way. The Institute for Figuring and Margaret Wertheim designed paper cards that can be folded to build fractal structures. They use the techniques of Dr Jeannine Mosely’s business card origami. The IFF is known for their work with Hyperbolic geometry and the crocheted coral projects. This work takes on new mathematically influences.


“Fractal Ruins”, 2016

This wall piece named “Fractal Ruins” illustrates some basic forms each with order-4 rotational symmetry, but their sculptures can take on much more complex fractals as well as experiments in randomness.



“Krypton Relativity”, 2015

Situated above one of the gallery entrances Rachel Sussman’s neon formula “Krypton Relativity” asks us to explore the aesthetic qualities of Mathematical and scientific formulae. The krypton gas gives a natural glow highlighting the purely visual elements of the work. The need to understand the information contained with in the symbols is not a requirement to appreciate its beauty. This sign acts as an invitation to explore the scientific subject matter and the means of communicating the data on a different level.

Susan Happersett

“But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise” at The Guggenheim

I am always looking for exhibitions that reference the sociological implications of Mathematics in art. As I walked into this exhibition at the Guggenheim and read the introductory wall text I was immediately intrigued.  Here is a portion of that text written by Sara Raza, (UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa):

But a Storm is blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, which is presented on Tower Levels 4 and 5, focuses on geometry as a tool for the illumination of creative historical and philosophical inquiry. While rooted in the mathematical “thinking sciences” geometry is used here as a conduit for theories around logic and the origin of meaning.

The artists in this exhibition have referenced social issues through a geometric perspective.


This  2011 stainless steel and rubber installation by Nadia Kaabi-Linke titled “Flying Carpets” is based on the rectangular dimensions of carpets used by illegal street vendors to display and quickly carry away the wares they are selling to tourists in Venice Italy. Many of the vendors came from Africa and the Middle East and have traveled to Europe for a better, safer life. The title alludes to this exotic notion of travel on a Flying Carpet. Although the visual aesthetic is a complex geometric abstraction, it is merely the vehicle to express the plight of refugees.

Susan Happersett


Beauty at the Cooper Hewitt

The fifth installation of “Beauty- Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” is survey of aesthetics in contemporary design. On display are a number of objects with mathematical connections.


Jenny Sabin 2015-2016

Jenny Sabin’s knitted architectural is based on Mathematics in nature and was commissioned specifically for this show. It was digitally knit using photoluminescent and solar active yarns creating a glowing environment of geometric webs.


Daniel Brown -“On Growth and Form” 2- Video – 2013

Daniel Brown’s six minute video shows the formation of a series of mathematically generated flowers. These blossoms have been created through the process of coding algorithms to digitally render an idealized image of nature. The resulting video has an eery, overly perfect, super realistic quality, an aesthetic contrast from actual flowers.



Michael Anastassiades – “Miracle Chips” – Marble – 2013


Michael Anastassiades’ white marble “Miracle Chips” are circular discs that seem to have been bent into concave surfaces. The sculpture presents a series of discs with increasing concavity. The smoothness of the curves leads the viewer to imagine it is possible to take  flat discs of marble and gently fold them into these elegant forms.

Mathematics was an important theme of the “Beauty” exhibition at the Copper Hewitt and the supporting text of the wall signage was clear in attributing the inspiration and use of mathematics by the artists and designers.

Susan Happersett

Fibonacci on Mulberry Street

Walking down Mulberry street I spotted this great sign in front of The Picture Room McNally Jackson Store.

16-24-01The sign is the work of Benjamin Critton. It features a series of squares whose sides increase based on the Fibonacci Sequence. The first two squares are the same size. The third square has sides twice the side of the first. The fourth has sides three times as long as the first. This continues until the 7th square has sides 13 times longer than the first. They all are spiraled into a neat Fibonacci rectangle with sides in an 8:13 ratio.

Susan Happersett

Doreen McCarthy – More Topologist’s Pool Toys at LMAK Gallery

A quick update on a post from last Summer.

16-23-1I was thrilled when I looked into the garden of the c and saw a whole collection of Doreen McCarthy’s wonderful sculptures. I think they are even more fun and unexpected outside. The shadows on the pavement provide a changing 2-D projection of the 3-D forms.
They will be up until September 25th so there is plenty of time to go to the Lower East side and enjoy this playful  installation.

Susan Happersett

Gerard Mullin at Kristen Lorello

The Kristen Lorello Gallery in New York is currently presenting a solo exhibition of Gerard Mullin’s painted and carved wood reliefs. The artist begins by painting abstract images with watercolor, wood dye, and acrylic on sheets of plywood. Then starting at one edge he carves a row of a single type of geometric shape.


Gerard Mullin – Untitled – 2013
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

In this first example the first carving is the bottom row of Isosceles triangles. Carving by hand – without a template – the rows of triangles fluctuate in size creating a sense of motion.


Gerard Mullin – Untitled – 2013 (detail)
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

The carved sections of the work are then painted white. This accentuates the 3-D aspects of the work allowing a clean surface to display the shadows from the carving. The brightness of the white paint in the recesses of the work contrasting with darker surface painting creates an interesting switch in positive and negative space.


Gerard Mullin – Untitled – 2013
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

This second work work began with a row of  equilateral triangles across the bottom, but then developed into rows of double triangles positioned base to base to form a diamond pattern.


Gerard Mullin – Untitled – 2013 (detail)
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Looking at the work from a side angle, the diamonds are concave 4-sided pyramid indentations. The  nature of Mullin’s carving technique creates a type of off-kilter grid. This is an unexpected quality for the exploration of gridded geometric spaces. The initial abstract painting also adds a dimension to the work, taking it another direction from hard edge and minimalist interpretations of geometry. Mullin offers his viewers a chance to look at familiar shapes within a new, freer, and less formal structure.

Susan Happersett

Infinity at the MET Breuer

This Spring the Metropolitan Museum of Art expanded its exhibition space into what used to be the Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue and is now called the “MET Breuer”. “Unfinished, Thoughts Left Visible” is one of the two of the inaugural shows. “Unfinished” features art which was never fully completed either by determination of the artist or by chance. On the forth floor of the museum there is a gallery with more abstract work that deals with the concept of infinity. The nature of the infinite creates a continuum in the work, thus alluding completion.

One of best visual interpretations that I have seen of Zeno’s Arrow Paradox is in the form animated video. “La Flecha de Zenon” by Jorge Macchi and David Oubina begins the way many movies begin, with a count down of numerals from ten to one, but, when you think some other action will start after one, the numbers are divided in two and expressed as a decimal. As the numbers get smaller and smaller the length of the decimal gets longer and longer until the digits get so small they seem to disappear. We are left to believe they go on forever and zero is unattainable.


Another artist in the exhibition that has a relationship with infinity is Roman Opalka. Beginning in 1965, he began a series of paintings on which he started to paint the numbers up to infinity. Each set of digits is hand painted in white on a grey background. The artist completed 233 canvases but of course never completed the project.

16-21-03These examples highlight the way numbers can be used as a tool to express themes of time and infinity and their effects on the human condition.

Susan Happersett


Pictures courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Harmony Hammond at Alexander Gray Associates

Alexander Gray Associates gallery in Chelsea is currently exhibiting recent work of Harmony Hammond. In the 1970’s Hammond was an influential feminist artist. Her current work is abstract, but with an emphasis on process and physicality. The materiality of these almost monochrome works relate to earlier themes of the human body.


“Red Stack” – oil and mixed media – 2015


“Red Stack” – oil and mixed media – 2015 (detail)

The painting “Red Stack” features a series of evenly placed horizontal straps, as well as a grid of metal grommets. The linearity of the rows of raised strips of fabric is interrupted by the circular grommets. This work has a very sculpture quality with a rough surface that keeps all of the lines and proportions from being hard edged and perfect.


“White Rims #1” – Monotype on paper with metal grommets – 2015


“White Rims #1” – Monotype on paper with metal grommets – 2015 (detail)

The monotype “White Rims #1” showcases the concentric circles created by the grommets. The  organized 5 x 7 grid of holes juxtaposes the more random pigmentation of the print. The ink flows and pools and plumes around the structures. The edges of the paper have a rough, almost torn, quality that is in contrast to the gridded repetition of the circles. There is a push and pull of chaos versus order, geometry versus the physicality of Hammond”s artistic process.

All Pictures courtesy of the artist and the gallery.


Huguette Caland at Natalie Karg

The exhibition “Silent Letters” is currently on view at the Natalie Karg gallery. This exhibition features paintings of Huguette Caland from the past 18 years. Originally from Lebanon, Caland is the daughter of the first post colonial president of that country. She worked in Paris before moving to Los Angeles. Her work has spanned numerous styles and subject matter.

16-19-01This series of square format paintings explore both proportion and geometry. In this work the canvas has a pair of adjacent squares placed horizontally. The center of the canvas that have sides that are one half the length of canvas. In each corner ,the artist has placed squares with sides one quarter the length of the canvas. Using the measurements of the canvas as a reference point Caland builds geometric relationships between the figures.


This second example features squares in more complex play of proportions. Each of the five small darker squares have sides with length one fifth that of the canvas and the large lighter center square has sides with length three fifths the measure of the canvas. Caland’s interest in grids is more visible in this work. Her use of vertical lines to fill in the spaces reminds me of the mark making of Agnes Martin.
The geometric themes of the paintings in “Silent Letters” are strong but it is Caland’s process of filling in the shapes that makes the work personal.

Susan Happersett