Lower East Side Galleries – March 2014

The Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan has a large and varied gallery scene. Though there are fewer galleries here than in the Chelsea Area, there is still a lot of great art. The galleries in the LES tend to be smaller and more intimate then in other parts of NYC . Many of the galleries are newer and less established and will take on different types of work.

Gil Blank at Joe Sheftel Gallery

The Joe Sheftel Gallery  has a exhibition of photographs by Gil Blank that are an exploration of the night sky. Blank uses an interesting technique of taking thousands of photos throughout a year then superimposing them until they accumulate into a single image. He has created one for each year beginning in 1986. The black background of the dark night sky is removed and replaced by another color. This new color is determined using a digital random color generator.


Gil Blank – Unti­tled – 2012 – Pig­ment ink jet print on poly­ester film
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Here is a detail of the same work:

Gil Blank - Unti­tled - 2012 - Pig­ment ink jet print on poly­ester film   Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Gil Blank – Unti­tled – 2012 – Pig­ment ink jet print on poly­ester film (detail)
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

There are two elements to these photographs that appeal to my interest in mathematics. First, the choice of color for the background. By removing the dark night sky, Blank has taken stars in the sky and abstracted them to become geometric points on a plane. Then, allowing the new color to be digitally randomly generated, the algorithm of the generating software becomes part of the artistic process. The second mathematical component is the accumulation of thousands of these sets of points with each set already containing a multitude of points. This series of photographs work flirts with the concept of Infinity.

 Laura Watt at McKenzie Fine Art Gallery

Vector diagrams are an interesting starting point for making abstract art. Laura Watt uses vectors to structure the patterns in some of her oil paintings. There are two excellent example of this work exhibited in her solo show at McKenzie Fine Art gallery. In “Vector Finding” Watt has used series of vectors fanning out from points near the corners of the canvas. Then, the triangular areas bound within these rays, are filled in with diamond-shaped grids and arcs of circles. The final image resembles cone-shaped structures consisting of nets of lines.


Laura Watt – Vector Finding – 2014 – Oil on canvas
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

In “Oriented Vision” the vectors are starting from only two points at the top and bottom left hand corners of the canvas. The artists uses arcs to give the illusion of a curved surface and there are multiple sets of rotated and superimposed grid patterns . This painting is reminiscent of a globe or map, but lines of latitude and longitude, however, are only one of the sets of grids. Watt embraces the use of vibrant and intricate patterning in her paintings. These two examples illustrate how mathematics can be part of this process.


Laura Watt – Oriented Vision – 2014 – Oil on canvas
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Central Booking – New York City

There are art galleries that occasionally exhibit art work that is of Mathematical interest, and then there are venues that consistently show work with Mathematical elements. Central Booking located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is an art space that always provides art work that any Mathematics enthusiast would appreciate. Executive Director and Curator Maddy Rosenberg has created two district galleries with in the space. The front gallery ABG (Artist’s Book Gallery) is dedicated to representing Artist’s Books in all of their forms and functions. Currently on view is an amazing piece by famous MathArt collaborators, Eric Demaine and Martin Demaine. The sculpture “Through the Looking Glass” was made in 2013 and comprises of a folded paper form encapsulated in a blown glass vessel. I have seen their beautiful and complex folded forms before, but the introduction of glass takes their work to another level.

The second gallery at Central Booking is HaberSpace,which is dedicated to Art and Science exhibitions. The close relationship to the visual representation of science and the Mathematics used in the study of science makes this the perfect place to find MathArt. The  March exhibition “Time and Again” explores the Physics of time, as well as the concept of linearity.

Miriam Carothers

Illustrator Miriam Carothers draws pen outline drawings of physicists. The the spaces are filled in coloring book style with Mathematical equations that relate to the work of each scientist.


Miriam Carothers. All pictures courtesy of the artist and the gallery.

In 2011 Carothers made 30 portraits in this series using a team of physicists, Physics professors and students to fill in the mathematical formulae. Through this series of drawings Carothers creates a dialogue, not only about scientists as people, but also how society relates to the mathematical numerals and symbols that form the language of science.


Miriam Carothers – Alexander Polyakor (2011). All pictures courtesy of the artist and the gallery.

Christiana Kazakou

Christiana Kazakou explores the connections between science and art through many mediums, including site specific installations, performance art, architecture and what Kazakou refers to as “Science Maps”. Her drawing “The Past, Present and Future” (2010) is both striking and elegant. The white lines on the black paper create an interesting dynamic of positive and negative space.It features three circles with measurement lines ticking off degrees around their circumferences, like on a protractor. They seem to spin like the mechanism in a clock. Around the circles there is a background pattern created from playful angled vectors which connect to form a variety of triangles.


Christiana Kazakou – The Past, Present and Future ( 2010. All pictures courtesy of the artist and the gallery.

The exhibition Time and Again at the HaberSpace gallery was full of references to Mathematics and I look forward to exploring future shows.

– Susan Happersett

Perfect Imperfection

Julije Knifer at Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery

Using symmetry to create a work of art is one way that Mathematics can influence an artist. But what happens when an artists uses symmetry and then makes one small change to upset that symmetry? The resulting work can express very different and exciting dynamics. I saw an exhibition of work by Julije Knifer (1924-2004) at the Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery  in New York. Looking at Knifers drawings and paintings it is obvious that using reflection and rotational symmetries were a major aspect of his work.


APXL – Julije Knifer – 2003-04
Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery

In APXL made in 2003-2004 there is a vertical line of reflection symmetry, but what is also interesting is how each of the “S” like figures would have an order 2 rotational symmetry if the artist had not truncated the outer columns.

Knifer used some type of symmetry in a lot of the work on display at this exhibition, but in much of the work the perfect symmetries were in some way altered.


MK 69-43 – Julije Knifer – 1969
Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery

The figure in the painting MK 69-43 from 1969 has an unblemished order 2 rotational symmetry but the figure is not centered on the canvas. There is an interesting sense of tension in this canvas because of the imbalance.


MS 09 – Julije Knifer – 1962
Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery

In the painting MS 09 from 1962 there is a horizontal reflection line of symmetry running through the center of the figure except for two small lines. There is a line connecting the center columns at the top and a line connecting the two right columns at the bottom. These act like bridges connecting the columns.

What I find so interesting about these works is how they make me think about symmetry. At first I was not going to write about this exhibition because only one painting had a complete and clear symmetry. But I kept thinking about the paintings and drawings and after a while I realized that by creating these imperfect symmetries Knifer has given us a different but inspired way to look at symmetry. There is enough of a framework provided so the viewer is looking for order in the symmetries, but is thrown off balance. Maybe this uncomfortable imbalance is the perfection of this work.

Julije Knifer is is one of the most important Croatian artists of the 20th century. His work is in many museum collections including MOMA in NYC and has had exhibitions at The Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney Australia. In 2001 he was selected to represent Croatia at the Venice Biennale.

– Susan Happersett