The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is currently exhibiting a large solo exhibition called “Stephen Andrews POV” in their Contemporary gallery. Stephen Andrews is known for his photographs, videos, and paintings that address difficult societal issues, using both representational and abstract formats. A recent (2014-2015) series of paintings titled the “Butterfly effect” is Andrews’ expression of the Chaos Theory. Using a defined set of restrictions the artist explores the multitude of outcomes.
Each work in the series consists of a white canvas with six rectangles that are identical except for color. Two of the rectangles are red two, are blue, and two are yellow. Each of the primary colors has equal representation. The oil paint has been applied using mylar sheets to ensure the integrity of the rectangles. It is the placement of the rectangles that changes with each painting. There are an infinite amount of possible outcomes. Andrews is interested in the accumulation of colors that eventually make black. The areas where all three colors overlap become black rectangles. These black rectangles appear in different locations on each canvas. At first these painting look random but upon closer inspection you realize they all share the same geometric elements, there is consistency in the chaos.
Stephen Andrews has expressed his ideas about the chaos he sees in our troubled world by using the ideas of the mathematical Chaos Theory to create abstract geometric paintings.
In between observations on math art in Manhattan galleries and beyond, a quick shout-out for my own art work. Two of my collaborations with Purgatory Pie Press are now for sale at the new “Paper Project” gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (back of the lobby on the left side when you come in through the main entrance).
Box of Chaos is a series of 4 paper sculptures based on Chaos Theory.
The “Happersett Accordion” is a modified, folded Moebius Strip
Whenever I have the opportunity to travel I make a point of visiting the local museums and galleries and I am always on the hunt for MathArt.
In Toronto, I visited the Distillery District, which is a collection of brick historic buildings that was once a whiskey distillery, but is now filled with galleries, restaurants and artist’s studios. I was in the Thompson Landry gallery when I spotted mathematical formulas that seemed to come directly out of my old Integral Calculus text book. I became immediately interested in the work of Étienne Gélinas. He uses a variety of techniques to create multi-media work: scratching geometric drawings into a thick base coat of paint or medium, collaging with paper blueprints, floor plans and garment patterns, and carefully painted shapes and formulas. The artist also adds a random accidental quality to each work by including an expressive element of abstract splatter drip and mark painting.
Étienne Gélinas – “Composition 365” – Mixed media on wood
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery
In the work “Composition 365” Gelinas has used a circle as his underlying geometry. There is a series of larger concentric circles which have been segmented into 8 equal sections with smaller series of concentric circles within each segment. Around this circle pattern there are mathematical formulae, specifically integral formulae. This formulae painted in white on the black background are quite beautiful. Dividing the work horizontally, the artist has placed layers of vintage patterns for making clothing. On top of the collaged element Gélinas has painted a free form abstract painting. There is a lot going on in this work and that is what I like about it. The seemingly disparate techniques yield complex work with a great textuality. To me the work addresses the layers of mathematics in society. There is the obvious association of the calculus formulae, and the geometric implications of the drawn diagrams relate to the geometry used in making the paper garment patterns. Finally, the wild abstraction of the gestural painting adds a level of spontaneity and emotion to the visual dialog. It is not often I find single work of art with so levels mathematical aesthetic.
The current exhibition at Pace Gallery takes its name from the Edgar Allan Poe poem from 1848. The press release contains a quote from the poem: “I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical-of the Material and Spiritual Universe: of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny…….”
This group show features work form the 1840’s to 2010 that builds a links between science and Mathematics and the artistic spirit. In one of the first galleries there is a copy of Edwin Abbot’s 1884 book “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions”. In this novel Abbott creates a two dimensional society and introduces a three dimensional character with interesting results and exciting prospects about further dimensional expansion. Abbott’s art allows his readers to imagine the possibility of a fourth dimension, a Mathematical idea that was very new at the time.
Installed in the largest room of the gallery is Tim Hawkinson’s large rotating sculpture “Gimbled Klein Basket” a wonderful homage to the “Klein Bottle”. A Klein Bottle is an impossible form first introduced by mathematician Felix Klein in 1882. Like a Moebius strip it has only one side, but a Klein Bottle has no boundaries, whereas a moebius strip has boundaries at its edges. Compare to, for instance, a sphere, which has no boundaries either.
The basket structure of Hawkinson’s “Gimbled Klein Basket” creates an interesting grid pattern on the shape, adding another visual element to the form. The hand crafted quality of the object makes it seem as if this shape is actually possible in 3-D. By rotating the sculpture the viewer has a chance to examine the form from all angles.
Installation view of the exhibition, Eureka, Pace Gallery, 508 West 25th Street, New York, May 2–June 27, 2015. From left: Hawkinson, Gimbled Klein Basket, 2007; Siena, Battery, 1997; Jenson, Physical Optics, 1975. Photograph by Tom Barratt, courtesy Pace Gallery.
The New Apostle Gallery featured sculptures and tapestries by Robin Kang at their booth at the Select Fair. Kang works in two very diverse styles. The sculptures are created using clear plastic BRXL bricks in two shapes: cubes and rectangular prism that are basically the size of two of the cubes side by side. The edges of each brick have a dark shading to accentuate them. Some of the interior walls are lined with radiant film creating reflections. “Artifact 435” from 2015 is a floor construction that is all about geometry by limiting the shapes Kang focuses on the interiors as well as the exteriors of cubes and prisms.
Robin Kang – “Artifact 435” – 2015 – Plastic BRXL and radiant film
Courtesy of the artist and New Apostle Gallery
Robin Kang also has work included in a very interesting exhibition at the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery (the lobby of the USB building) titled “Between a Place and Candy: New Works in Pattern + Repetition + Motif”. This show, organized by Norte Maar, presents recent work that relates to the Pattern and Decoration tradition of the 1970’s. This movement also had a basis in the craft and ornament. The use of repetition quite often has Mathematical implications and I saw a number of exciting connections. To see complete set of images go here.
Kang’s contribution to the show is a tapestry “Two Birds with Diamonds” from 2015. It was made on a digitally operated Jacquard loom (a binary operated loom). The images of the birds have a bold simplicity that remind me of ethnographic patterns. The vector-type parallel lines remind me of computer circuit boards. Kang has managed to integrate the history of textiles with the history of technology.
Kang – Two Birds with Diamonds” hand woven Cottton and Tincel – 2015
Courtesy of Norte Maar and the artist
The work of Robin Kang relates to mathematics on two fronts: the sculptures elevate basic geometric figures by revealing their interior structures, the tapestries combine the mathematics of early computer science with the cultural significance of the textile arts.