Phil Wagner at UNTITLED Gallery

The exhibition “It’s Been Too Long” at the UNTITLED Gallery on Orchard Street features a recent (2015) series of paintings based on telephone numbers. Wagner has randomly selected telephone numbers from the NYC and LA white pages. He paints columns of the enlarged numbers.

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The numbers have been painted with uneven brush strokes so that the resulting numerals look as if they have been stamped with an old fashioned rubber stamp and ink pad onto the parchment-colored background. These paintings are an exploration into society’s association with numbers. The rows and columns of numerals become abstract geometric patterns. Removed from the initial source they lose their meaning and purpose. The whole concept of a paper telephone directory is becoming obsolete. In this digital age the once important pages are becoming visual artifacts.

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The gallery installation fills an entire room with these canvases, creating an environment of numerals. As some one who likes to work with numbers, I found it quite soothing, almost meditative. It makes me think of all of the other places we see numbers: train cars, mileage signs along the road, credit card numbers, etc… and never stop to think about the aesthetics. Numbers are an important part of our lives but quite often we tend to only use them for practical applications, never stopping to appreciate their visual qualities.

Susan Happersett

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James Siena “New Sculpture” at Pace Gallery

Pace Gallery on 25th street in Chelsea is currently presenting the geometric sculptures of James Siena. Well known for his algorithmic paintings, Siena has been making sculptures throughout his career. At first working with tooth picks, and now new work using bamboo skewers, as well as bronze casts of previous pieces. Some of the work has very clear geometric patterns and others seem more chaotic. I have chosen two of the bamboo sculptures that  are about a particular  mathematical geometric phenomenon.

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“Richard Feynman” , 2014

“Richard Feynman” from 2014 is a great illustration of self-similarity in three dimensions. Named after the famous 20th century Theoretical Physicist, this work is a cube within a cube within a cube. Each cube structure is composed of 4 by 4 by 4 cubes. Four of smallest cubes make up one cube in the medium cube structure and four of the medium cubes make up one of the large cubes on the large cube structure. Using the bamboo skewers as lines in the 3-D space the artist has created grids on three different scales.

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“Morthanveld: Inspiral, Coalescence, Rungdown” 2014, 2015

“Morthanveld: Inspiral, Coalescence, Rungdown” from 2014-2015 is complex tower created using 6 regular pentagons. Instead of stacking them at the same angle, Siena has  twisted  each consecutive pentagon 36 degrees. The finished sculpture is a spiraling geometric column. Siena uses a building  technique of wrapping string around the vertices to to attach the bamboo skewers both in the interior and the exterior shapes. This requires a a very hands on process adding a human element to the Mathematical subject matter.

Pictures courtesy of the gallery and the artist.

Susan

Holly Laws “Cage Crinolines” at Muriel Guépin Gallery

The exhibition “No Woman, No Cry” at Muriel Guépin Gallery features the work by three women whose subject matter is the female identity in society. They reference both the tradition of feminine crafts, as well cultural expectations.

Holly Laws has created a series of small, detailed, handmade models of historic garments. Her intricate “Cage Crinoline” sculptures show the mathematics involved in the design of these 19th century hoop skirt figure enhancers. They are on  display under glass domes, hinting at the Victorian practice of preserving and displaying things like a tiny skeleton in a cabinet of curiosities.

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Holly Laws – “Cage Crinoline 1864” – 2015
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

The structure for “Cage Crinoline 1864” consists of a series of concentric ellipses. They have been used to create a vertical column with two perpendicular reflection planes of symmetry. With the utmost precision Laws has built a 3-dimensional expression of the aesthetic qualities of ellipses. This complex geometry has been used in a miniaturization of an undergarment that if it were an actual garment would not even be seen in public. The mathematics would be hidden under a showy display of skirt fabric. I was really drawn to this “Crinoline Cage” because it reminds me to look beneath the surface and in unexpected place to find the beauty in Mathematics.

Susan

Math at the Cooper Hewitt

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan was closed for renovation for three years before  it reopened at the end of 2013. The current exhibition features an overview sample of their vast collection. I was very happy to discover that they have chosen to display quite a bit of work with direct Mathematical links. The debate over the critical delineations between Fine Art and Design is a hot button issue I am not going to address in this blog post. I have selected two pieces that have specific Mathematical themes.

“Prototype for an Environmental Screen, Fibonacci’s Mashrabiya”, 2009 is an architectural element designed by Neri Oxman at MIT Media Lab with Professor W. Craig Carter. It is was created using algorithms and digital processes but is based on traditional screens found in historic middle Eastern design.

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The recursive Fibonacci Sequence was used to create the spiral pattern. Here is a detail of the center of the spiral.

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Mathematician and artist Daina Taimina has been quite well known for her crocheted sculptures of Hyperbolic Geometry.

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“Model of a Hyperbolic Space” 2011, is crocheted out of wool yarn. Working on these sculptures since 1997, Taimina has made major breakthrough on the modelling of figures in Hyperbolic space. Hyperbolic Geometry is a Non-Euclidean Geometry discovered by Janos Bolyai and Nicholay Lobatchevsky in the first half of the 19th century. In Hyperbolic Geometry each point has negative curvature and seems to curve away from itself.

At the Cooper Hewitt there were many more items that featured Mathematics as a design element. There was a very direct indication of the importance Mathematics plays in the field of both decorative and industrial design.

Susan

Yuichi Higashionna at Marianne Boesky Gallery

Marianne Boesky’s Upper East Side gallery is currently presenting the exhibition “let’s get dizzy”, featuring new work by Yuichi Higashionna. This Tokyo artist’s work is a reaction to Japanese Art and design of the 1970’s and questions the connection between luxury and aesthetics. His use of abstraction incorporates geometry. In this 2014 Untitled spray paint on canvas Higashionna uses an underlying grid of isosceles triangle.

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Untitled 2014 Spray Paint on canvas

This tiling is composed of rows of isosceles triangles. Alternating the direction of each triangle, first base at the bottom, then the next rotated 180 degrees, so its base is at the top. Within each of these grid triangles there is a smaller spray painted isosceles triangle that is slightly twisted off-center. The outcome of these shifts is a bit disconcerting and jarring, giving the painting a pulsing sense of movement. The idea of an underlying grid or tiling pattern is still clear but by placing the hard-edge painted triangles at slightly disjointed angles Higashionna changes the entire feel of the painting.

Susan