Mathematics and Fashion: Charles James at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

When you think about evening gowns, mathematics may not be the first think that comes to mind, but Charles James used geometry and engineering to design his stunning sculptural creations. In 1944, Vogue Magazine referred to his “Mathematical tailoring”.
The Metropolitan Museum has devised an exhibition that celebrates the mathematical structures of James’ work using technology to enhance the viewer experience. Robotic arms with cameras and video recorders present close-up details of structural elements of the gowns. X-rays provide an inside glimpse at the architectural support systems. Computer models provide 360 degree topological maps of the twists, spirals, and folds incorporated into the fashion. Unfortunately it was very dark in the gallery and impossible to take photos but the Metropolitan Museum has a great website with videos and images at metmuseum.org. I have included two of my favorite dresses.

32-1

Charles James – Four leaf clover dress

The evening dress “Four Leaf Clover”  features a hyperbolic curve for a sweeping skirt.

32-2

Charles James – Spiral Dress

The green satin Spiral dress incorporates a spiral of fabric that seems to flow directly back into itself creating an Moebius strip that encircles the wearer.

There are many other examples in the exhibition of the complex geometry utilized to design these creations. Throughout his career James was also involved with teaching other designers to use his mathematical techniques. He invented his own schematic dress forms and mannequins that are also on display at the museum.

The engineering nature of Charles James’ approach to fashion combined with the technologically curated presentation of the Metropolitan Museum creates an exhibition that reveals connections between Mathematics and fashion design.

— Susan Happersett

Advertisements

Water Weavers at The Bard Graduate Center

“Water Weavers, The River In Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture” is currently on view at the gallery of the Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan. This exhibition explores the connections between the river and culture exploring the art, craft, and design that has manifested from these connections. A number of the displays reflect the cultural importance of the symmetry in the objects created.

31-1

Abel Rodriquez – Fish Trap
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

The large scale woven form “Fish Trap” (2013)  by Abel Rodriquez was created using Yare’ fiber. This form features 3-D symmetry with a central horizontal axis of rotational symmetry as well as a vertical axis of reflection symmetry. In these weavings Rodriguez has expressed the grace and elegance of form of a traditional and functional object.

David Consuegra was one Columbia’s most influential graphic artists. In the 1960’s he developed a series of abstracted patterns based on the esthetics of pre-Hispanic designs. A group of his prints of the individual geometric images are on display in the gallery. Each of these elements of his visual dictionary is based on either reflectional or glide-reflectional symmetry.

31-2

The art collective Tangrama has used technology  called “Applique” (2014) to create  wall paper designs incorporating the work of David Consuegra.

31-3

Tangrama has also provided the viewer an opportunity to explore these patterning opportunities with a tablet-optimized web application based on David Consuegra’s designs installed in the gallery.31-4

This interactive software allows the participant to layer up to five different patterns with ten color choices, ten gradient variations, as well adjusting size. There is also the ability to allow the patterns to move by scrolling across or up and down the screen. I had a great time exploring a few of the multitude of visual possibilities available with this amazing design generator.

Susan Happersett

Transmutations – Benigna Chilla at Tibet House NYC

Benigna Chilla has incorporated mathematics into her art practice throughout her career. Her recent, large scale canvasses on display at Tibet House are inspired by her stay in Bhutan in 2011.

30-1

Overview of the exhibition
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Chilla has included small segments of cultural pattern and textiles into the texture of these paintings. This enhances the connections between the bold symmetries and traditional Tibetan Art. In the painting “Two black Triangles” there is the obvious reflection symmetry of the black triangles, but there are also subtle almost-reflective symmetries. Near the bottom of the canvas there two added sculptural elements, but the right one is higher than the left. On the right hand side of the bottom border there are two red triangles with grey circles on top. On the left hand side, the triangles re grey, but the circles  are red.

30-2

Two Black Triangles – Mixed Media – 8′ x 6′ – 2012
Picture courtesy of the artist

The painting “Full Moonstone” features a large central Mandala with 8-fold rotational symmetry.

30-3

Full Moonstone – Mixed Media on Canvas – 8′ x 6′ – 2013
Picture courtesy of the artist

In the press release for this exhibition, Chilla discusses the importance of both the meditative and physical processes involved in the creation of these works. There are not many artists who can discuss creating mathematical symmetries and meditation, and I personally find that combination very inspiring.

Susan Happersett

 

Summer Show at McKenzie Fine Art

One of my favorite things about NYC in the Summertime is the Summer Group shows at the galleries. During the next month or so there are many opportunities to attend exihbitions that feature the perspectives of numerous artists, whose work is related by a consistent theme. The McKenzie Fine Art Gallery‘s current show is titled “Color as Structure” and exhibits the work of 16 artists, whose use of color defines the geometries within their paintings, drawings, and sculptures.

Elise Ferguson

29-1

Elise Ferguson – NW, bold
2014 – Pigmented plaster on mdf – 24 x 124 inches
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Elise Ferguson uses pigmented plaster on board in her work “NW,bold”. This square work is structured using reflection or mirror symmetry. The diagonal on the square running from the upper left corner to the lower right corner is the line of symmetry. Ferguson creates a dynamic rhythm in this work through her use of parallel lines of modulating widths. The bolder set of lines parallel to the top and left edge of the board contrast with the thinner lines that are parallel to either the edges or the diagonals. There are only a few lines that are not parallel to either the edges or the diagonals. These lines divide the board into geometric regions, creating defined sections of parallel lines going in different directions. There is a hand drawn qualtity to this work that I really appreciate. I feel that the varying widths of the lines enhances the nature of the material and gives the work great energy.

Alain Biltereyst

29-2

Alain Biltereyst – 2/0/12
2012 – Acrylic on wood panel – 10 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Alain Biltereyst’s intimate painting on wood panel “2/0/12” has historical references to earlier geometric abstractions from the 1960’s. With a background in graphic design Biltereyst is interested in signage in the public environment. This work brings the cultural phenomenon of text and images we see in advertising and street art and distills the geometric content to abstract paintings. He introduces the imperfections of the shapes inherent in the street and some handmade signs into the realm of the clean edge geometries of his historical influences. In “2/0/12” Biltereyst has created a rectangular grid system: three columns of five rectangular sections. The pattern in the left column has has been shifted down one rectangle and is repeated in the right column. The middle column features two parallelograms that have the same width as the rectangles in the other columns but are stretched to reach the corners at twice the height.

Paul Corio

29-3

Paul Corio – Megalicious
2011 – Acrylic on canvas – 60 x 48 inches
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Near the front of the gallery Paul Corio’s painting “Megalicious” drew me into the gallery like a sirens song. All of the pulsing squares and triangles painted like color wheels are the perfect marriage of math and art. Corio has divided the squares into ten triangles by trisecting the sides of each square and then drawing lines from each of those six points and each of the four corner points to the the center of the square. The resulting triangles have been filled in with the colors from a color wheel in sequence. To decide which color goes into the top triangle to begin the progression, Corio has created his own random number generator, using the numbers of the winning thoroughbred horses from race tracks in NY. The number one results in yellow being the top center triangle. Not only does “Megalicious” use geometric forms, there is also an interesting algorithm to determine color placement.