Kelsey Brookes at the Jacob Lewis Gallery

Kelsey Brookes current solo exhibition at the Jacob Lewis gallery is titled ” The Mathematics Underlying Art”. I was so happy to see that the Fibonacci Sequence is a major theme for these large scale paintings. Each square canvas is divided into thirteen (13 is a Fibonacci Number) wedges radiating from the center point. Then dots are made along each dividing line at intervals that correspond to the Fibonacci Sequence.

”1.618 ( Golden Ratio) Indigo”, 2017

An intricate concentric pattern is painted around each dot, filling the surface.  The waves and undulations in this detailed work allude to the fact that Brookes is also microbiologist.

”1.618 ( Golden Ratio) Indigo”, 2017 (detail)

There are two sets of systems at work in this series. There is the overall predetermined structure, which features order 13 rotational symmetry and the uses the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio to place each circle. Within this architecture,when you look more closely at the paintings you see the freer, expressive style . The mathematical structure creates a sense of order to contain the movement of the patterns.

“1.618 (Golden ratio) Red” 2017

Susan Happersett

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Rita McBride at Dia:Chelsea

“Particulates” is Rita MacBride’s new site-specific installation commissioned by Dia for their Chelsea location. McBride has used industrial high-intensity light to define the space formed by a hyperbola rotated around an axis.
The bright green laser beams create the lines for this 3-D drawing. The atmospheric properties of the airflow in the gallery create a sense of motion. Dust and other particulates are caught in the blast of lasers and become dancing reflections of light. This results in an otherworldly experience for the viewer.
Susan Happersett

Eva Mantell: Finding Structural Beauty in the Ephemeral

by Sarah Stengle

Artist Eva Mantell applies meticulous attention to materials that are on the verge of being discarded. The resulting artwork is complex, highly ordered and the humble materials are lent a poetic weightlessness. The organizing principles that generate her constructs are deceptively simple. She sets rules or parameters, which when followed or repeated, produce complex results. Her studio production is process-driven in that the final result is not known at the start, but rather produced by intuitively following the simple rules she sets out for herself.

Turing Patterns taken from David A. Young’s Article, A local Activator-Inhibitor Model of Vertebrate Skin Patterns, Mathematical Biosciences, Volume 72 issue 1, November 1984, page 51.

She likened her approach to art to Alan Turing’s approach to understanding the morphogenesis of flowers. Posing the question “How does a flower know how to become a flower?” Turing spent the last years of his mathematical career looking closely at ordinary flowers. His mathematical inquiry into biological morphogenesis worked with simple pairings of activators and inhibitors that behaved in predictable ways but produced complex results as they interacted over time. Similarly Ms. Mantell observes ordinary things, applies simple parameters to generate conceptually and aesthetically complex results in her artwork.

Cloud Map, torn magazine page, wax, 8 x 10″ 2017

With Cloud Map, Ms. Mantell started with a cigarette advertisement from a magazine. She imposed the restriction of using only her bare hands to create a drawing; no tools or other materials were used. Then she set out to remove as much material as possible while still retaining the structural integrity of the original sheet of paper.  The results closely resemble Turing patterns. A torn hole could never be too large or the integrity of the underlying image would be destroyed; neither could the supporting matrix remain too thick or the challenge of removing as much material as possible would not have been met.  Although the holes were torn in an intuitive manner, one could imagine that “completeness” was the inhibitor and “removing” was the activator.

There is an emotional quality to the act of removing. The substrate, already disposable, moves towards fragility. Being damaged while remaining recognizably whole has parallels with being ill or wounded and yet continuing to live. The sense of vulnerability is underscored by leaving only the nicotine warning intact and legible.

The touch of the hand is key to understanding the artwork. At first glance Nicotine appears to be a perforated and colorful lattice.  Closer examination reveals the nearly disposable substrate and the patience evident in the handwork. The careful attention and repeated touching of the material elevates the sheet of paper out of the realm of rubbish into the realm of a carefully realized work of art. In this sense Ms. Mantell’s work is transformative, use mundane materials to reflect on the nature of transience.

This Little Palace, cut paper cup, wax, 8 x 8 x 5″ 2017

Another body of work was the project transforming discarded paper coffee cups into space filling sculptural objects. She set herself the challenge of making the cup occupy as much volumes as possible without either adding or removing materials. Many of the artist’s solution approach surface filling curves before being expanded into a elaborate brambles resembling tumbleweeds or feathers. Starting with a familiar object on the brink of its own extinction, she expands it to occupy more time, in the form of her careful attention to it, and space.

By exploring simple principles with a meditative and deeply human eye, Eva Mantell explores pattern in nature using materials that refer to our everyday lives. The patience and care with which she attends to disposable objects makes us question our relationship to the human detritus our culture thoughtlessly produces. Her work gently but clearly underscores the importance of noticing the overlooked and finding structure and beauty in the ephemeral.

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Eva Mantell:  lives in Princeton, NJ and has exhibited her sculpture, painting and video at the Monmouth Museum, the Hunterdon Museum, the Bernstein Gallery at Princeton University, the Abington Art Center, the Jersey City Museum and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She has a BA from Penn and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. She curates, teaches and speaks about art including the recent Art as Activism, at the exhibit Fight or Flight at The Painting Center, NYC. She has a special interest in arts engagement and community outreach and her teaching has been included in Designing and Delivering Arts Programs for Older Adult Learners, published by the National Center for Creative Aging in Washington, DC. In January 2018, her work will be on view in a group exhibit in Brooklyn, NY at http://soho20gallery.com/ Eva’s website is evamantell.com.

 

Delirious at The MET Breuer: “Excess”

The MET Breuer’s current exhibition Delirious includes about two dozen art works that are related to Mathematics. The Section of the show titled “Excess” features work that involves repetitive series.
Here is Francois Morellet’s rule based painting “4 Grids 0° – 22.5° – 45° – 67.5°”  from 1958. Morellet has layered a series of four square grids rotated by the prescribed number of degrees. Like an interference pattern, the white sections pop in the intricate web of black lines.
Hanna Darboven manipulates the digits in calendar dates in her serial drawing “00-99=No1-2K-20K” from 1969-70:
Darboven’s work involves the repetition of predetermined arithmetic operations. To me it functions as a type of visual number poetry.
Delirious is really an amazing exhibit. I have only offered a brief sampling of the work on display. There is even a showcase with some of Sol Lewitt’s note books! If you are in NYC in the next few months I strongly recommend taking some time to have a look. If you can not make it to the museum, there are some images on their website and they have published a nice catalog.
Susan Happersett

Delirious – Vertigo at the MET Breuer

When I heard the title “Delirious” of the current exhibition at the MET Breuer I did not immediately think Math Art. This show explores art from the 1950-1980 period that was in reaction to the tumultuous time after WWII. It includes a broad range of styles and themes. Two sections in particular feature work with mathematical implications :”Vertigo” and “Excess”. The introductory wall signage even mentions the artists’ use of mathematics and geometry.
There were so many pieces in this show that I would like to discuss that I will talk about it in two blog posts
One of the sections in the show is called “Vertigo”. Displayed in this area is work that warps the viewer’s perspective of space.
The 1965 painting  “Snap Roll” by Dean Fleming uses flat isosceles triangles, trapezoids, and a single central parallelogram to produce the illusion of a 3-D form simultaneously pushing out of the plane of the canvas, and retreating into the same plane. This disorienting phenomenon disputes Euclidean Geometry.
Robert Smithson’s Untitled (Model) from 1967 consists of a square grid of plastic panels. Carving away layers to reveal a diagonal step pattern, Smithson creates reflective symmetry. Although all of the ends of the elements retain their square shape along each column and row, the openings appear to stretch and warp. This sculpture questions the way space changes when we go from a 2-D flat plane into 3-D object.
There were just so many wonderful examples of mathematically inspired art in this exhibit, it is hard to do it justice in a blog format. Next time I will write about the section titled “Excess”.
Susan Happersett

Mario Merz in Arte Povera at Hausser & Wirth

The exhibit “Arte Povera” curated by Ingvild Goetz at the Hausser & Wirth Gallery celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Italian artistic movement. Curator Germano Celant came up with the name “Arte Povera” which translates to “Poor Art”.  Although the artists in the group had different  practices, they were united in their rejection of the commercial leanings of Western art and chose to use everyday or “poor” materials in there work. Although a number of the artists made mathematically influenced work, Mario Merz offers the most direct connections. Merz created a large body of work over many years based on the Fibonacci Sequence.
This large wall installation from 1991 titled “Crocodilus Fibonacci” features the sequence’s digits in neon lights.
 Here are some examples from a portfolio of lithographs based on the Fibonacci sequence and the growth patterns of plants  “Da un erbario raccolto nel 1979 in Woga-Woga, Australia” (From an herbarium gathered in 1979 in Woga-Woga, Australia) .
All pictures courtesy of the gallery.
Susan Happersett

Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner Gallery

Ruth Asawa studied at the Mountain College, and in the late 1940’s began making crocheted wire sculptures. This solo exhibition at at David Zwirner features a large collection of these hanging forms.

Almost all of the structures feature a vertical line of symmetry. No matter your vantage point in the gallery the reflective symmetry is visible.

This sculpture is referred to in the catalog as “Untitled, 1954, Hanging, Seven-lobed Continuous, Interwoven Form, with Spheres with in Two Lobes”. It shows another element of Asawa’s work: the interior and exterior forms change positions. They seem to flow through each other.
This phenomenon questions our preconceived ideas about the rules for inside and outside in a 3-D geometric shape.

Susan Happersett

Fashion and Mathematics

The Museum at FIT is currently presenting an exhibit titled “Force on Nature”, that features clothing and accessories that refer to the natural world. There are many growth patterns found in nature that can be expressed mathematically, so it is no surprise that I found some interesting math in the show.
This dress created by fashion design collective “ThreeASFOUR” in 2016 features geometric fractal patterns.
MC Escher is probably one of the most famous examples of artists who explored math in his art.
This dress by Alexander McQueen in 2009 is inspired by Escher’s work. The birds become a houndstooth pattern.
All pictures courtesy of the designers and the Museum at FIT.
Susan Happersett

TWINKLE IN THE EYE – A group show at Pablo’s Birthday Gallery

The current exhibit at the Pablo’s Birthday Gallery on the Lower East Side features a number of works with interesting geometric themes.

Henrik Eiben – Minnesota – Steel
Picture courtesy of the gallery

Henrik Eiben’s steel wall construction, titled “Minnesota” is built from a collection of isosceles right triangles. Joining two congruent triangles along their legs (sides that form the right angle) results in parallelograms. Adding a third triangle, a trapezoid is formed. The steel sections have been hinged together with leather and some of the triangles that make up this open frame are angled off the wall. This gives the work a more 3-D presence, with the breaking off the flat wall pale into the gallery space.

Karsten Konrad – VW – Mixed media
Picture courtesy of the gallery

“VW”  is a mixed media octagonal mosaic by Karsten Konrad. The walls of the sculpture are created using a series of parallel strips creating a series of tight concentric octagons. This is in contrast to the multicolored parallel strips in the patchwork of diagonals that make up the central image.
Susan Happersett