SEEING MATH – Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College

Math Art Workshop January 6, 2018
Author of this blog post, artist Sarah Stengle will teach a Math Art Workshop from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on January 6, 2018, at the Center for Art and Dance, which is in the same building as the Flaten Art Museum. Everyone is welcome to attend. Further information can be found here

Seeing Math at Flaten Art Museum at St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota, is a masterfully curated interdisciplinary exhibit featuring six contemporary artists who are clearly comfortable working creatively with mathematical concepts. Curator Taylor Davis selected works by Daniel Dean, Tracy Krumm, Emily Lynch Victory, Ben Moren, Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, and Roman Verostko that span a wide range of media, from video through painting to fiber art. The works incorporate mathematical topics such as algorithms, infinity, geometry, counting systems, and the fourth dimension.

Emily Lynch Victory, P1: Number System Base 16, 2016

Emily Lynch Victory’s P1: Number System Base 16 is a complex set of grids of linear marks that resemble scraffito. At a distance her work appears to be an imposing minimalist painting with a densely worked surface. Upon closer examination the grid turns out to be a visual mapping of numbers expressed in different base systems. Visitors can appreciate the beauty of the accumulated markings with or without unraveling the system of numerical notations that generated the imagery.

Daniel Dean, Infinity, 2015

At first glance, Infinity, by Daniel Dean, also closely resembles a minimalist work of art. The pristine construction and electric blue glow are reminiscent of Donald Judd’s light sculptures. The title Infinity combined with the circular motion of the light can be interpreted as metaphor for the cycle of life. But the image in the lighted panels is a painfully familiar one: the one that appears when our computer gets stuck in processing a task. Dean plays with the sublime notions of infinity and light using an image that is also an everyday symbol of frustration, an image that simultaneously evokes the feeling of things taking “forever” while waiting around in the prosaic realm of electronic dysfunction.

Ben Moren, River Suspension, (Analysis), 2015

Ben Moren’s video installation River Suspension (Analysis) captures multiple images of the artist apparently hovering in mid-air over a river. The effect is starkly surreal. Using a very high-speed camera developed by the military for analyzing the trajectory of ballistic weapons, he instead tracks the trajectory of his own leaping body. The frames are so numerous that motion is nearly frozen, confounding our sense of time and gravity. Usually talk about the trajectory of an artist is in reference to a career path, not the physical body of the artist in motion. Moren elicits a complex emotional response to his fairly simple action, jumping, by modeling his trajectory physically and technically in a context where one expects pure metaphor.

This highly engaging exhibit also includes examples of book art, fiber art, algorithmic art and models of tesseracts (cubes imagined in the fourth dimension). Attendees who linger will be rewarded both by the masterful work exhibited and by the varied depth of information provided. The text panels are unusually well written, and additionally there is a table with an array of enjoyable mathematical puzzles, models, and books.

Seeing Math is on view through January 15, 2018, at Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. It is inspired by works of mathematically themed art acquired with The Arnold Ostebee ’72 and Kay Smith Endowed Fund for Mathematical Art. Established in 2014, this fund supports the acquisition and display of mathematically themed art at St. Olaf College. The museum will be closed during winter break, December 10, 2017 through January 2, 2018.

Sarah Stengle

 

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