Dan Walsh at Paula Cooper Gallery

Dan Walsh is known for his large-scale geometric work. I was introduced to his paintings at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. At his solo exhibition at the Paula Cooper gallery I was immediately drawn to his large scale square paintings. Not only do they feature geometry, they also present the theme of counting. In the painting “Fin” from 2016 the canvas is divided in to four horizontal rows of varying widths.  Thickest on the top with 3 sections divided by black and white parenthesis and narrowest on the bottom divided into six segments.

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Fin – 2016
[copyright] Dan Walsh. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert

Since the width of each row is the same the progression 3, 4, 5, 6 segments presents a visual comparison of the fractions 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6.

“Debut” from  2016 the artist uses the same 3, 4, 5, 6 divisions in horizontal rows but this time groupings of thin lozenge shapes make up the pattern.

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Debut, 2016
[copyright] Dan Walsh. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert

There is a stack of 8 lozenges in the rows of three, 6 lozenges in the rows of four, 5 in the rows of five across, and 4 in the rows of six. Instead of having all of the shapes the same base color like in “Fin”, Walsh has created a scale with the more intense blues in the bottom row, grounding the picture space, almost like a landscape.

The painting “Circus”, also from 2106, presents a more architectural form. Working once again with rows of varying width this has seems to have more of a subject and background.

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Circus, 2016
[copyright] Dan Walsh. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert

The alternating black and white coloring of the vertical thin lozenge-like strips create a tower. The rows grow from 13 to 15 to 17 to 19. Each row gaining one strip on both the left and the right sides.

Dan Walsh’s painting style is both precise and systematic, but his choice of numerical subject matter that everyone can relate to creates a joyful imagery.

Susan Happersett

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A Million

I never planned to use this blog to discuss my political leanings but …

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My sister Laura and I participated in the Woman’s March in Washington this past weekend. The size of the crowd was of a magnitude I have never experienced before. Anyone who has seen my work knows i have a predisposition for counting. Years ago, I developed a system of creating counted mark-making drawings. One project – from 1999 – titled “A Million Markings for the Millennium features 125 prints, each with a 40 by 20 square grid. Each grid square contains 10 markings. The number one million is thrown around freely in rhetoric and dialog, causing it to loose its gravitas. This work is my visual answer to the question “Just How many is a million?”

EPSON MFP image

Standing on Indepence Avenue on Jan 21 I was overwhelmed by the sea of people all walking together. The societal effects of very large number was palatable. I had not planned on discussing these emotions in this forum but when the concept of counting becomes an issue with regards the Presidential inauguration crowd, I could not stop myself.

Artists, even Math artists, do not work in a bubble (although I have attempted to crawl under a rock for the last two months). Objective counting and measuring has become a source of political existential angst. There is really no such thing as “alternative accuracy”. Sometimes numbers speak louder than words.

I guess I will always be a Nasty Number Geek

Susan Happersett

More Art From JMM: Elizabeth Whiteley and Clayton Shonkwiler

The gallery area at JMM was full of interesting work. Here are two more excellent examples.

Elizabeth Whiteley work is often related to botanical drawing and painting. In this new work she explores the geometry of of plants, but also the symmetries of design. Through her study of Frieze Group Symmetries she is developing a series of drawings that tackles the challenges that occur at the corners of the page. A Frieze Group is the mathematical classification for 2-D patterns that repeat in only one direction. Often seen on building as border decoration. There are seven symmetry groups that relate to Frieze patterns involving combinations of rotations reflections and translations.

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The silverpoint drawing “Halesia carolina I” (above) features a central figure of three blooms surrounded by a border pattern of single blooms. This frieze pattern features reflected translations with a line of reflection at the center of each side. Whiteley’s drawings call to mind the decorative use of borders in illuminated manuscripts. By referencing the patterns of the central figure in the design element of the border, the symmetries become more connected to the central theme.

The clean lines of Clayton Shonkwiler’s digital animation “Rotation”drew my attention. Using circles and lines, the video presents undulating, almost sensual, geometric images.

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I am providing a still shot I took in the gallery, but his videos are available on Shonkwiler’s website.

Although the geometric figures, circles packed into the square grid of the video frame, are basic, the mathematics for this visual feat is quite complex (Shonkwiler utilizes a Möbius transformation of the hyperbolic plane to the Poincaré disk model). I think it is the purity of the clean lines of the circles that allow the grace of the more complicated mathematical processes to translate into a really beautiful video.

Susan Happersett

Exhibition of Mathematical Art at JMM

This year the huge Joint Mathematics Meeting was held in Atlanta Georgia with over 6,000 attendees. A section of the exhibition hall was turned into a gallery space to present art work with mathematical connections. There were also dozens of talks presented by both mathematicians and artists on the topic of Mathematical Art.

During one of these talks, Sarah Stengle presented work from her collaboration with Genevieve Gaiser Tremblay. The large series of works on paper, titled “Criterion of Yielding”, uses stereoscopic images from the 1850’s as the background for drawings of diagrams from the book “Mathematics of Plasticity” written by Rodney Hill in 1950.

The work “Criterion of Yielding, Winter Scene” features a mathematical schematic based on the deformation of metals that creates a visual bridge between the solitary figure on each side of the stereoscopic card. To enhance the feeling of antiquity, the artist uses ground peridot gemstone to make the pigment. This process gives the color a sense of stains instead of paint alluding to the paper as artifact.

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The topic of plasticity revolves around the measurement of stress, strain, bending, and yielding. All these ideas are poetically associated to the human condition, both as individuals and with regards to our interactions. The layering of mathematical material over existing images presents an unexpected dichotomy. The additional process of pigmented staining and mark making instills each work with a sense of time.

Andrew James Smith developed a unique process of drawing regular polygons to create a spiral called a Protogon. The process to form a Protogon begins with a triangle and progresses with each new polygon sharing a side with the previous polygon and having one more side.

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“Proto Pinwheel” is a digital study for a large acrylic painting and is a pigment transfer on wood. For this work Smith has started with a yellow opaque Protogon shape and then rotated 120 degrees and layered subsequent Protogon shapes in varying transparent colors. The result is a spiral pulsing with energy.

More from JMM in a few days.

Susan Happersett