The “Geometric Cabinet” at Kristen Lorello Gallery is an exhibition based on an instructional tool used in Montessori early childhood education to teach geometry. This tool consists of 6 puzzle-like drawers with removable trapezoids, triangles, quatrefoils, and other shapes. The children learn about the shapes by running their fingers along the edges of the shapes, as well as the process of fitting the shapes into the corresponding cutout frame. Two of these drawers are laid out on mats on the floor of the gallery. Kristen Lorello has curated this exhibition by selection work that relate to these geometric shapes and the prescribed educational activities.
Drawer from a Montessori “Geometric Cabinet” Picture courtesy of Kristen Lorello
The work of eight artists has been included included in this show. There is a kinetic, rotating, circular stone-like wall sculpture by Rachel Higgins that reminds the viewer of the tactile experience of a young student running their fingers along the curved sides of the circular shape taken from the cabinet. Michael DeLucia has provided a direct response to the quatrefoil shaped piece with his drawing “Quatrefoil” .
Michael DeLucia, “Quatrefoil”, 2016, ink on paper Picture courtesy of Gallery 11r
“Quatrefoil” features a 2-dimensional depiction of four tire-like tori. A torus is a 3-dimensional topological form that has genus one. This means it has only one hole, like a bagel. The tori have been drawn in perspective so that front single torus is larger and in the foreground. There is a pair of tori in the middle ground and the smallest torus in the background.
Through this work De Lucia has not only referenced the basic geometry of the flat cabinet shape but he elevated the quatrefoil to a complex form. The structure of each torus has been expressed by drawing a series of circles rotating in 3-dimensional space around a circular axis. Adding the tire tread element to the shapes gives the form a textural quality that take the drawing out of the realm of text book figures.
The exhibit Geometric Cabinet has one of the most interesting curatorial premises I have encountered. The history and principles of Mathematics education are a fertile ground for creative interpretation and Kristen Lorello has presented a thought provoking selection and installation to explore these ideas.
There are a number of Upper East Side galleries that display museum caliber exhibitions of historically significant art. The current show at the Dominique Lévy gallery “Drawing Then, Innovation and Influence in American drawings of the Sixties” is an excellent example. It features work by some of my favorite artists like Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, and Cy Twombly. The list goes on and on, there is even a Sol Lewitt wall drawing.
There are two works on display that relate the most directly to Mathematics. Mel Bochner’s “3” from 1966, is an homage to a Sierpinski Triangle. An equilateral triangular grid formation has been strategically filled in with hand written number 3’s and words that begin with letters “Tri”. The positive and negative shapes created delineate the fractal construction of a Sierpinski Triangle.
The second drawing is Josef Albers’ “Reverse + Obverse” from 1962. This line drawing is a 2-D rendering of 3-D constructions.
Josef Albers -“Reverse+Obverse” – 1962 Picture courtesy of the gallery
Both the top and bottom pairs of the figures employ a 180 degree rotation, an order-2 rotational symmetry. This work is a geometric expression of a form turning through space.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the MOMA’s ground breaking 1976 exhibition, “Drawing Now”. The current show at Dominique Lévy gallery is true to this historical reference, focusing on work from the turbulent years from 1960-1969. There is a wide range of work on display from drawings with social commentary, to drawings exploring the aesthetics of minimalism and conceptual rule-based art.
The Group Show Concrete Cuba at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea is an exhibition of historical importance and has been the subject of numerous reviews and editorials. So far I have not read a direct discussion of the Mathematical connections to the art, so here it goes… This exhibition displays the work of a group of Cuban abstract artists who are referred to as Los Diez Pintores Concretos (Ten Concrete Painters). This group was active fro 1959 to 1961, but the show also includes earlier work to explore the development of Concretism, introducing the viewer to art work created at a pivotal and complex time in recent Cuban history. Pure hard edge abstraction was counterintuitively a political statement by striving for a visual utopia instead of expressive political themes.
I have selected two works from the extensive exhibition with interesting mathematical subjects.
Sandú Darié – “Untitled, Transformable” – 1950 – oil on wood with hinges
This sculpture “Untitled, Transformable” by Sandú Darié consists of six hinged triangles. Depending on your vantage point in the gallery the structure takes on many different forms. Two hinged vertical rectangle have been split and hinged along parallel diagonals. Then, the two outer right triangles have been split and hinged to form equilateral and isosceles triangles. By using different colors for the elements in each half it is not obvious that each side is the same construction with a 180 degree rotation. The sculpture can take on a multitude of shapes through the use of hinges. The artist has used a fairly direct study of triangles to create a work with about how geometry can be visualized with the viewer moving through space.
Sandú Darié – “Untitled ” – 1950 – collage on paper
The next example is also by Sandú Darié. It is a collage work on paper. This 1950 work is all about circles. It features a column of overlapping circles. Some of the circles have been divided into red, black and white parallel stripes using vertical chords and some horizontal chords. This makes the circles appear to be twisting 90 degrees back and forth as they tumble down the page. It is the juxtaposition of the linear qualities of the parallel bands of color and the circular cut outs that provide a sense of movement in this dynamic collage.
Much of the work on display at this memorable exhibition employed mathematical themes. These were just my favorite pieces.
The iconic Flatiron building on 23rd street in Manhattan is home to the Sprint Flatiron Prow Art Space, a bright triangular room of windows, that can be viewed from the sidewalks of both Fifth avenue and Broadway. In coordination with Cheryl McGinnis Gallery, artists fill the space with interesting, temporary projects. This winter, Chelsea Hrynick Browne’s exhibition “Flakes” consists of vertical strings suspended with a multitude paper shapes.
Each two-sided shape is created by cutting and layering pieces origami paper. Browne’s intricate paper cutting relies on Mathematics to create the symmetrical patterns. These two examples each feature order-4 rotational symmetry. The use of contrasting colored papers affords an interesting expression of positive and negative space.
Each of the flakes is two-sided. Some flakes are circular and others are square, but my favorite flakes have 16 sides. These extra special flakes are formed by two back-to-back square paper cuts with a 45 degree rotation.
“Flakes” is a terrific installation for Winter in NYC. Each of the paper cut outs is different and they colorfully beckon to pedestrians navigating the snow and grey slush. I stumbled across this display and it made my whole day better. I am always amazed and happy to be able to find so many great examples of Mathematical art as I go about town.