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

MANUSxMACHINA, Fashion in the age of Technology at the Met

Every year in May the Metropolitan Museum of Art presents an elaborate fashion exhibit. The Costume Institute at the Museum produces a huge show, not in their usual space in the basement, but instead in transformed rooms in the main galleries. This year the exhibition is titled “MANUSxMACHINA, Fashion in the age of Technology”. It examines the way relationship of couture designer clothing and the use of machines. I was not expecting to see any Mathematical references, but I was pleasantly surprised.


Miyake Design Studio “Flying Saucer” , Dress (flat), 1994

The  pleats on “Flying Saucer” Dress by Miyake Design were machine garment-pleated, creating a series of pleated circles. When lying flat it is easy to see the large center circle that create the body of the dress and smaller circles that form sleeves. The center points of the circles are in a straight line.


Miyake Design Studio “Flying Saucer” , Dress (unfolded), 1994

When the dress is opened to show its accordion construction, the body and sleeves become pleated cylinders.


Threeasfour, “Bahai” dress, 2014

The “Bahai” dress by design team Threeasfour features 3-D  printed elements by Materialise. The structure of this dress alludes to complex geometries. Here is a quote from Threeasfour from the exhibit’s wall signage:

“Next-generation 3-D modeling programs were used to construct the six degrees of fractal growth where each element operates independently from the rest”.

It is obvious mathematics was an intrinsic tool used to create this garment. As more and more designers have access to advanced technology, there will be great opportunities for them to use Mathematical themes and processes in their work.

Susan Happersett


Donald Judd put the town of Marfa, Texas on the art world map. He founded this amazing museum, so that large conceptual art installations could be on permanent display. Originally this project was in conjunction with DIA but now it is supported by the independent Chinati Foundation. The museum is situated in the high desert of Western Texas with views of the Chinati mountain range. Art can be seen both in large re-purposed military buildings and outside on the expansive grounds.

Access to the interior galleries is limited to pre-arranged tours but Judd’s iconic work “Untitled, 15 works in concrete” from 1980-1984 can be visited without reservations.

16-17-03 16-17-01 16-17-02

The 15 arrangements of concrete rectangular solids consist of a total of 60 forms all fabricated on site. All have of these elements have the same exterior measurements of 2.5 meters high by 2.5 meters deep by 5 meters long. The slabs of concrete are 25 centimeters thick.  The grouping of forms are situated in a straight line and  60 meters apart over a length of 1 kilometer. Each arrangement has between 3 and 6 of the concrete sculptural elements. Judd’s placement of the rectangular open blocks is also mathematically specific relying on a series of ratios to best differentiate the 15 installations and the shadows created by the natural light.

I went to visit the site twice.  Once in the bright sun of mid morning and again in the late afternoon. The pictures above were taken during my afternoon visit. The angles of the shadows, both within the concrete forms and on the landscape varies dramatically. By creating a set of numerical rules that allowed for a uniformity of the elements then exploring 15 permutations for this these building blocks in a dramatic setting Judd has provided the viewer an amazing experience to feel a physical connection to the art.

Susan Happersett

Exhibitions 2d, Marfa, Texas

For the past month I have been traveling throughout the USA and one of the most interesting destinations has been Marfa, Texas. This small West Texas town is a haven for Minimal and Conceptual Art. The gallery Exhibitions 2d has a lot of mathematically art work on display. Two artists represented by the gallery – Gloria Graham and John Robert Craft – were of particular interest.


Gloria Graham – “NaCl H2O Salt Water” – 1994
graphite, kaolin, canvas on two wood panels
Picture courtesy of the gallery

Graham’s geometric paintings are based on the patterns found in the atomic structures of natural elements.  “NaCl H2O Salt Water” features two crystal-like forms, both regular hexagons. The hexagon on the left is divided into three congruent rhumbi.  The hexagon on the right is divided into six equilateral triangles. The addition of the three extra line segments to divide the rhumbi into triangles changes the hexagon dramatically. The symmetry goes from order 3 rotational symmetry to order 6. The perception of the possible 3-D form goes from a cube to a faceted diamond shape with 6 facets on top. Graham’s painting process for this work involves a layer of kaolin (a clay-like mineral) applied to canvas stretched over wood. The lines are drawn into this base. Through the drying process tiny cracks in the surface have formed. This gives the work a complex physicality that alludes to the natural environmental inspiration for the painting.



John Robert Craft
Cast iron
Picture courtesy of the gallery

Craft’s cast iron sculptures are related to his life as a Texas rancher. They are solid and heavy, and have a rustic patina. Their rough physicality is juxtaposed to their intricate geometric forms. This work is made up of 60 basic elements stacked into a 4 by 5 by 3 rectangular solid. Each of the elements is a type of double cruciform with a pyramid set on each of the six ends. This forms negative spaces with 16-sided regular polygon shaped windows. Craft’s work presents complex 3-D repetitive tiling-like formations, while retaining the physical realities of the artist’s ranch experience.

Susan Happersett