What a long strange year it has been. I am so happy to be able to go to museums again.
Rayyane Tabet’s current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art addresses the four reliefs of Tell Halaf that have ended up in the MET’s collection. The exhibition explores Tabet’s family’s connection to the reliefs. Tabet’s great-grandfather Faik Borkhoche worked as a researcher for the excavation. Borkhoche was given a 65 foot rug by the Bedouins of Tell Hala that is the subject of Tabet’s installation “Genealogy”
The rug was to be cut into 5 equal sections, one for each of Borkhoche’s children. Then it was to be divided again in equal section for each subsequent generation.As time passes sections get smaller and smaller creating visual fractions of the genealogical history of the artist’s family.
With New York closed, I have been social distancing at home. My last blog was about the Armory Show in early March. I have not been out and about to look at art since then, so this blog has been on a hiatus.
But… today one of my Fibonacci drawings is featured on the American Mathematical Society’s Page-A Calendar, I decided to post the May 3rd page.
It has been a very difficult time for many people. I am hoping everyone is healthy and safe.
The Armory Show is the largest venue, taking place on piers 90 and 94 on the Hudson River. There are a number of galleries featuring art with Mathematical themes. I will offer you a small sample of some of my favorites.
The Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie from Switzerland featured the work of Beth Campbell. This powder coated steel mobile titled “There is no such thing as a good decision (brilliant)” is a floating drawing presenting a schematic diagram of a series of two choice decisions. Starting from a single wire that offers two options. The number of choices doubles with each iteration.
The O S L Contemporary Gallery from Oslo, Norway devoted there space to an amazing survey of sculpture by Aase Texmon Rygh. Rygh is an important early modernist sculptor who explored many topological forms.
The Museum of Modern Art in NYC underwent a big expansion and renovation project last year. The opening in the Fall the Museum introduced some exciting new exhibitions. “sur moderno journeys of abstraction” focuses on the work of participants in the post WWII avant-garde artists groups that were formed in South America. The work on display is all abstractions, many of which have geometric themes.
Willys de Castro’s 1962 oil on canvas on plywood wall sculpture, “Objeto ativo (cubo vermelho/branco)” (“active Object [Red/White Cube]”) explores the divisions within a cubic structure. The 3/4 of each of the 5 visible sides of the cube are painted red. A square measuring 1/4 of each side is painted white. This is done in such a way that it appears that there are white cubes embedded into the sculpture at two diagonal corners.
Eugenio Espinoza’s 1971 “untitled” half stretched canvas features a square grid pattern. By only stretching the top half of the painting the bottom of the canvas is slack. the grid has been altered as the sides of the canvas roll back.
Helio Oiticia’s 1958 gouache on board “Metasquema No.348” is an arrangement of bright blue non-overlapping rectangles. Positioned in a grid like pattern but skewed at various angles, the liner rectangles create a pattern that seems to have both kinetic and curvilinear properties.
There were so much interesting work at the JMM Art Exhibition that I needed to write a second blog post.
Amanda Owens’ “Links” is painted on a wood panel with the grain and an underlying drawn grid exposed. The structure of the geometric pattern features repetitive tessellation. What makes this painting unique is the use of a hombre technique for the blue squares,changing gradually from light blue on the top row to the dark blue on the bottom row. This alters the expected symmetries.
“A Unit Domino” a print by Doug McKenna explores symmetry vs asymmetry. We expect the two points of the triangles to line up along a vertical axis but the are both off center. The mathematics behind this bold pattern is quite complex. This space filling curve was developed using a pair of double spirals and a half-million line segments. McKenna has also published an electronic, interactive,illustrated app/eBook that allows the viewer to explore his intense and beautiful patterns.”Hilbert Curves: Outside -In and Inside-Gone” is available at Apple’s App store.
This January the 2020 Joint Mathematics Meeting was held in Denver, Colorado. Every year the Art Exhibition at the Convention seems to get better and better.
I will present a small sampling of the work on display. Anne Ligon Harding and Clayton Shonkwiler created this lino cut print featuring trefoil knots. The knots both have 3 fold rotational symmetry. The use of parallel lines gives the illusion of under and over in 3-D space.By flipping the prospective 180 degrees the viewer can see the trefoils from different angles. Having one knot on a white background and the other on a black background juxtaposes positive and negative space.
James Stasiak used the process of digital photo improvisation to create this print on metal. According to Stasiak a photograph of railroad tracks was manipulated using “tessellations and polar projections” to the form this striking image.
The Newark Museum has recently reinstalled their collection of American Art. Titled “Seeing America” this exhibition a selection of mid-century modern abstract paintings all with new updated signage. I was so happy to see Charmion Von Wiegand’s painting “The Sign of Keeping Still from 1953”.
Von Wiengand was a friend of Piet Mondrian. This work was influenced by that friendship, but also includes a reference to Mathematics.
The Newark Museum acknowledged this connection with an explanation of the logarithmic spiral. Including mathematical references in art museums is a great curatorial development.
The Metropolitan Museum’s current exhibition “Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the courts of Europe” presents an amazing selection of treasures that reflect the cutting edge technology from 1550-1750. Just like today, back then, owning the newest tech most expensive gadgets was a sign of wealth and power. This concept was magnified in the 16th-18th centuries with the royal courts demanding the finest materials and the most gifted artisans to produce these tools and scientific renderings.
This 16th century instrument of the “Primum Mobile” created by Ignazio Dante using design by Petrus Apianus is the only one in existence. Named for the outer sphere in the incorrect geocentric model of the universe it was actually made as a tool for trigonometry to calculate sines and cosines.
King Henry II of France owned this Encryption Device made in 1550. Instead of using a fixed alphabetic translation this mechanism could use a series of separate transformations.
Geometry was a part of a royal education. The Platonic Solids were a popular subject. This German Writing and Reading Box from 1570 features perspective drawings created using inlays of wood, ivory and mother of pearl.
Wenzel Jamnitzer was renowned for his expertise in geometric prospective drawings. His 1568 book “Perspectiva Corporum Regularium” features his exquisite 2 dimensional representations of 3-D geometric models.
The Met Brauer is currently featuring work recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This section of Modern and Contemporary Art is from Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. Shown along side work that has been in the collection for a longer time this exhibit shows how work from various parts of the globe have commonalities. Divided into thematic sections, two sections “Spatial Reiterations” and “Marks and Measures” present Mathematical content.
Kasuko Miyamoto’s “UNTITLED” installation conceived in 1977 uses string and nails to create a 3-D line drawing that maps two lines of points on the ground to grids on the wall.
In the section titled “Spatial Reiterations” This work explores the juxtaposition of line versus plane by mapping many points on the wall to each point on the floor.
Mark Bradford’s “Crack Between the Floorboards” from 2014 is located in the section titled “Marks and Measures”. Created using paper, paint and tape on canvas this work explores the patterns found within our living spaces. Featuring a strong diagonal line the square is divided with horizontal and vertical sets of parallel lines.
The art of constructing mobiles is a mathematical exercise. Creating a well balanced suspended sculpture requires the artist to calculate the appropriate distances for each of the weighted elements. “Calder Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere” is the inaugural exhibition at Pace’s new palatial gallery in Chelsea.
This “Untitled” Mobile from 1932 features four white spheres of various sizes and one tiny red sphere. The spheres are attached to ends of suspended rods.
For this Untitled Mobile from 1934 Calder seems to create an almost impossible equilibrium. The top rod has a single solid form suspended on the left and a second rod suspended on the right. From the second rod there two more suspended forms.