Concrete Cuba at David Zwirner

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.

Susan Happersett

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