Carmen Herrera at the Whitney

The Whitney Museum is currently presenting “Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight”. This outstanding exhibition examines work from 1948-1978. Born in Cuba and educated in Havana, New York and Paris, Herrera developed a distinctive hard-edge geometric style. This is a large show and would require more than one blog post to discuss in fill. I have decided to limit this post to paintings Herrera created in NY after she returned from studying in Paris (1952-1965).


“Black and White”, 1962
Picture courtesy of the Whitney Museum

“Black and White” from 1962 is an excellent example from this time period. The shape of the actual canvas is an important element in the architecture of the work. By rotating the square there are no horizontal or vertical lines, this immediately disrupts the visual experience. Herrera limited her color pallet to two colors creating a dynamic tension of positive and negative space. In this work the thicker white strips are the same width as the thicker black strips but in the gallery there is an optical illusion where the white seems wider. The alternating of black and white parallel lines on the isosceles right triangles creates an order-2 rotational symmetry.


“Horizontal”, 1965
Picture courtesy of the Whitney Museum

“Horizontal” from 1965 also features two colors and a square. This painting again relies on the shape of the canvas to define its structure, but in this case a circular format. The thin horizontal wedges amplify the push and pull of the red and blue triangles and circle segments, formed by the edge of the canvas (arc) and the sides of the squares (chords).

“Lines of Sight” is a long overdue solo museum exhibition for Carmen Herrera It is a welcome opportunity to appreciate the artist’s exciting use of geometry.

Susan Happersett

Casey Reas at bitforms gallery

“There’s No Distance” is Reas’ fourth solo show at bitform gallery. On display are the artist’s new software-generated “Still Life”series videos.


“Still Life (RGB-AV A)” (gallery view), 2016
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

The work in this series is based on the decomposition of a platonic solid using custom software to create an ever changing image of iterations. Reas has collapsed or flattened the multiple planes of a 3-D object allowing them to be visible on the screen at the same moment in time. These works are meant to be seen as performances, with the exhibition space and sound being integral to the work. Derived through a set of instructions or rules, the software adds a time-based element that changes the processes and continues to create new iterations. The subject matter for this series is pure geometry, but the viewer experiences the analysis of the shapes through the exploration by the computer system.

Susan Happersett

Victor Victor Vasarely at Maxwell Davidson Gallery

Victor Vasarely was the founder of the Optic Art or Op Art movement. His studies at the Budapest location of Bauhaus education in the 1920’s influenced Vasarely style of geometric abstraction. The paintings in the “Analog” exhibition at Maxwell Davidson Gallery demonstrate Vasarely’s ability to visually bend and stretch the plane of the 2-D canvas into 3-D space. The images seem to bounce and vibrate off the canvas.

The acrylic painting “PHOBOS” from 1979 uses the distortion of squares to create what looks like a square-shaped hole in the center of the canvas that is angled at a 90-degree turn from the edges of the canvas. The four isosceles right triangles in the corners of the canvas feature a pattern made up of purple or green squares. The four isosceles trapezoids have been filled in with distorted representations of squares creating the perspective of falling inward or protruding outward. The central square contains a grid of squares that again flattens out the plane.

Vasarely was the master of painting exacting geometric formations, but the most impressive element to this work is the exciting sense of space and movement. This is the first gallery show of Victor Vasarely’s paintings in many years It was very exciting to see a great selection of these geometric masterpieces all in one location.

Susan Happersett

Sol Lewitt at Paula Cooper Gallery

Paula Cooper is currently presenting a wide range of the work of Sol Lewitt at all three of their Chelsea galleries, as well as at the book store 192 Books on Tenth avenue. Wall drawing and sculptures are included in this excellent homage to the artist, but I am going to focus on a photographic work from 2004: “A Sphere lit from the top, four sides, and all of their combinations”


Sol Lewitt – “A Sphere lit from the top, four sides, and all of their combinations” – 2014
Picture courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery

This series of 28 photographs explores 2-D images of a 3-D sphere. It looks at how the figure changes in space based on how it is lit. A circle possesses infinite lines of reflective symmetry, diameters, and has an infinite order of rotational symmetry in 2-D space. Spheres take these symmetrical properties into 3 dimensions. Lewitt’s use of light from six vantage points reveals the myriad of visual possibilities in portraying what seems to be the purest and simplest of geometric solids. Although the subject of each photograph remains constant, all pictures have a different energy and personality.

I feel that photography is a fertile medium for mathematical art, especially serial work. It allows an artist to explore a geometric theme through different vantage points and permutations.

Susan Happersett

Donald Moffet at Marianne Boesky Gallery

“Donald Moffet: any fallow field”, the current solo exhibition at the Marianne Boesky gallery in Chelsea features work that pose a conversation on human’s apathy for nature.  “Lot 052215 (graphic)” is one of the artists recent extruded paintings, created using a process that coaxes the oil paint into hair like bristles that seem to grow out of the canvas.


“Lot 052215 (graphite)”, 2015




Like much of the work in the show this painting is structured in a way that brings the work off the wall into the gallery space, creating sculptural quality that produces shadows. The overall pattern explored in this piece is a square format created using 13 circles that has order-4 rotational symmetry. The center section of the shape is a 3 by 3 grid square, but by adding a circle to the center of each of the sides, a diamond with 5 stacked diagonal rows is formed. This structure to me alludes to structures found in nature, like honey combs. The use of the graphite colored bristles lends the work a foreboding presence.

Susan Happersett

Anila Quayyum Agha at The Peabody Essex Museum

Anila Quayyum Agha’s installation titled “Intersections” is inspired by the intricate decorative elements she encountered in religious buildings as a child in Pakistan. The work consists of a laser cut steel cube lit from within. The lines of the lattice work on the cube are projected unto the painted walls, floor and ceiling of the gallery.

The open work design is based on the geometric properties of Islamic patterning. Each side of the cube features a figure with 8-fold rotational symmetry inscribed with in a circle.

These symmetries get disrupted in the projection onto the gallery surfaces. Especially along the lines where the walls and floor meet. The geometry on the cube is precise but the shadows must bend to fit within the boundaries of the gallery.

Susan Happersett

More Math Art from the Bridges Conference Jyväskylä, Finland

There were so much interesting work at the Art Exhibition this year, is was difficult to choose just a few for my blog.

Bernhard Rietzl’s 3-D printing of “Nautilus Theodori” offers an elegant interpretation of a spiral developed by Theodorus of Cyrene in Greece in the 5th century BC.

The Spiral of Theodorus is constructed using right triangles. It begins with a central isosceles right triangle. The legs of this first triangle determine the length of each of the shorter legs for all triangles in the spiral. The second triangle uses the hypotenuse of the first triangle as its longer leg. The third triangle uses the hypotenuse of the second triangle as its longer leg. This process continues to create the spiral. Rietzl’s sculpture uses hollow 3-D wedges to create a shell-like vessel. The clean lines of the triangle give  the nautilus shell an element  of modern design.

Nathan Selikoff’s video “Audiograph” is produced in real time based on the interaction of environmental factors. The work is a projection of a clock. The hours and the minutes hands are fairly traditional lines using audio waves.

The seconds hand of the clock however, is a representation of the sound over the course of a minute. The sounds and voices in the gallery leave lines radiating out from the center of the clock. The changes in the volume and the tone of the environment create the visual variations.
Selloff’s clock makes the viewer think about both time and sound. Using computer technology and the mathematics of audiology it creates a work that  allows participants to change the visual output of the video within the time limitations of the movement of the seconds hand of a clock.

Susan Happersett

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