Adrian Piper at MOMA

It is the final two weeks of Adrian Piper’s MOMA retrospective titled “Adrian Piper A Synthesis Of Intuitions 1965-2016”. This exhibition features work from Piper’s diverse career. The first few rooms include excellent examples of early conceptual work with Mathematical themes.
“Nine -Part Floating Square” from 1967 features nine canvases positioned to for a 3X3 square each canvas is divided into 3X3 grid. A selection of grid squares on each canvas is painted with gesso to form a 6X6 square that stretches across all of the panels in an off center position.
“Infinitely Divisible  Floor Construction”  first constructed in 1968 consists of squares of particle board and lines of white tape.The first square is undivided, the next arrangement is four sections each divided into 4 squares (2X2 grid), the third arrangement  is nine sections each divided into 16 squares (4X4 grid), the largest formation features sixteen boards each divided into 64 squares (8X8 grid). This work becomes an parade of squares with in squares that becomes more intense as it marches across the gallery floor, highlighting the geometric structure of the squares as well as referencing the more abstract concept of mathematical infinity.
Piper continued to use the tenets of conceptual art in her practice but the themes changed. Societal concerns, especially racial discrimination became the subject matter of much of the work.  I realize the main emphasis of this blog is to discuss the Mathematical connections to Art, but I hope that anyone who is in NYC goes to MOMA to see this show not only for the Math Art but takes the time to experience the entire timely exhibition.
Susan Happersett

Barry McGee at Cheim & Read Gallery

Known for his free-for-all type of installations, Barry McGee is consistent in his unpredictability. His newest display at Cheim & Read Gallery consists of hundreds of objects. There are stacks of objects and dozens of paintings on canvas wood and cardboard. There is one prevalent theme throughout the space and that is the use of geometric patterning.

“Untitled”, 2017

This collection of shaped paintings is a single work of art. Each shape is filled with a tiling of  geometric patterns.
Here is an example of a tiling made up of  yellow Rhombuses and isosceles triangles in two shades of red.
This black and white design features squares set on the diagonal with alternating bands of black and white.

“Untitled”, 2017

Here is another wall in the gallery, consisting of a collection of framed works on paper. The wall has been sculpted to bulge out at the bottom. In this assortment of drawings there are more of the tilings, but there are also illustrations of geometric figures.
Within the random nature of McGee’s installation the impressive use of mathematical patterning becomes a unifying factor.
Susan Happersett

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


Delirious at The MET Breuer: “Excess”

The MET Breuer’s current exhibition Delirious includes about two dozen art works that are related to Mathematics. The Section of the show titled “Excess” features work that involves repetitive series.
Here is Francois Morellet’s rule based painting “4 Grids 0° – 22.5° – 45° – 67.5°”  from 1958. Morellet has layered a series of four square grids rotated by the prescribed number of degrees. Like an interference pattern, the white sections pop in the intricate web of black lines.
Hanna Darboven manipulates the digits in calendar dates in her serial drawing “00-99=No1-2K-20K” from 1969-70:
Darboven’s work involves the repetition of predetermined arithmetic operations. To me it functions as a type of visual number poetry.
Delirious is really an amazing exhibit. I have only offered a brief sampling of the work on display. There is even a showcase with some of Sol Lewitt’s note books! If you are in NYC in the next few months I strongly recommend taking some time to have a look. If you can not make it to the museum, there are some images on their website and they have published a nice catalog.
Susan Happersett

Delirious – Vertigo at the MET Breuer

When I heard the title “Delirious” of the current exhibition at the MET Breuer I did not immediately think Math Art. This show explores art from the 1950-1980 period that was in reaction to the tumultuous time after WWII. It includes a broad range of styles and themes. Two sections in particular feature work with mathematical implications :”Vertigo” and “Excess”. The introductory wall signage even mentions the artists’ use of mathematics and geometry.
There were so many pieces in this show that I would like to discuss that I will talk about it in two blog posts
One of the sections in the show is called “Vertigo”. Displayed in this area is work that warps the viewer’s perspective of space.
The 1965 painting  “Snap Roll” by Dean Fleming uses flat isosceles triangles, trapezoids, and a single central parallelogram to produce the illusion of a 3-D form simultaneously pushing out of the plane of the canvas, and retreating into the same plane. This disorienting phenomenon disputes Euclidean Geometry.
Robert Smithson’s Untitled (Model) from 1967 consists of a square grid of plastic panels. Carving away layers to reveal a diagonal step pattern, Smithson creates reflective symmetry. Although all of the ends of the elements retain their square shape along each column and row, the openings appear to stretch and warp. This sculpture questions the way space changes when we go from a 2-D flat plane into 3-D object.
There were just so many wonderful examples of mathematically inspired art in this exhibit, it is hard to do it justice in a blog format. Next time I will write about the section titled “Excess”.
Susan Happersett

Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner Gallery

Ruth Asawa studied at the Mountain College, and in the late 1940’s began making crocheted wire sculptures. This solo exhibition at at David Zwirner features a large collection of these hanging forms.

Almost all of the structures feature a vertical line of symmetry. No matter your vantage point in the gallery the reflective symmetry is visible.

This sculpture is referred to in the catalog as “Untitled, 1954, Hanging, Seven-lobed Continuous, Interwoven Form, with Spheres with in Two Lobes”. It shows another element of Asawa’s work: the interior and exterior forms change positions. They seem to flow through each other.
This phenomenon questions our preconceived ideas about the rules for inside and outside in a 3-D geometric shape.

Susan Happersett

Polly Apfelbaum at Alexander Gray Associates

The exhibition “Polly Apfelbaum: The Potential of Women” at the Alexander Gray Associates gallery features a new series of gauche paintings inspired by the 1963 book “The Potential of Woman”.
Written for a symposium of the same name, this text offers a condescending outlook on the future contributions of women. The cover design by Rudolph deHarek features a portrait of a woman’s head using flat shapes of color with a vertical line of reflective symmetry.
Using this image as a staring point, Apfelbaum repeats and rotates the original form to create paintings with a variety symmetrical properties.
In this work the woman’s head has been repeated once and rotated 180 degrees, creating order 2 rotational symmetry.
For this next painting the head is repeated 6 more times. The arrangement of 7 women offers some more complex patterns. By slightly altering the central figure the artist was able to impose both vertical and horizontal lines of reflective symmetry in this work.
Apfelbaum’s appropriation of this particular image offers a socially charged commentary. The use of mathematics to manipulate the image creates a dynamic visual dialogue.
Susan Happersett
All pictures courtesy of the gallery

“Expanding Abstraction: New England Women Painters, 1950 To Now” at the De Cordova Museum.

One of the more interesting Summer exhibitions that I visited this year (open till mid September) is this show at the De Cordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Many of the paintings on display feature mathematical themes. Geometry was a popular subject for abstract artists in the 1970’s. Maude Morgan and Terri Priest both incorporate geometric principles in their work.

Maude Morgan , “Gold Coast II” , 1971
Picture courtesy of the De Cordova Museum

Maude Morgan painting “Gold Coast II” features bright squares in the center of the canvas that pulsate against the background. In the lower left corner there is series of striking turquoise rectangles.

Terri Priest’, “Panoply, Summer Evening”, 1976
Picture courtesy of the De Cordova Museum

Terri Priest’s “Panoply, Summer Evening” from 1976 utilizes vertical parallel lines to create a surface that is broken by a few loose orange lines running slightly off the diagonal.

This exhibit also showcases more contemporary art.

Reese Inman, “Stinglattice II”, 2006
Picture courtesy of the De Cordova Museum

Reese Inman’s “Stinglattice II” from 2006. With experience as a computer programmer, Priest uses algorithms and a computer print-out plan for each of the colors within the grid. She then hand-paints each dot onto the canvas.

The art on display spans six decades, demonstrating the many styles and themes that fall under the umbrella of abstract painting. Mathematical influences appear throughout this history.


Susan Happersett

Bridges Conference Art Exhibit – Waterloo 2017

Once again there was a lot of interesting art on display at the Bridges Conference this year. Way to much to write about in my blog. To see more work the entire gallery is available on the Bridges website.
It is always difficult to pick a few pieces, but I will choose six over two blog posts.
Veronika Irvine’s sculpture “Delle Caustiche (Sagittarius Star Cloud)” incorporates the art of bobbin lace making into a 3-D surface. The hexagonal lace pattern has been altered to create a disc formation with larger hexagons at the outer edge of the curves. It required 3 rotations of this disc process. Copper wire has been used to give the lace structure. Irvine’s intricate band of lace graceful curves up and out of the plane.
Guy Petzall’s “Obloid Whorl” pop-up model is masterful created, using a single sheet of paper.  Cutting and folding along a grid format, Petzall creates what he refers to as “a whorling meander motif”. The flat paper has been transformed into a rising spiral.
 Lee Angold used water-soluble carbon to hand paint “Pinus nigra”. It is a an exploration of Fibonacci spirals found in cones of the Austrian pine, but with a twist. Cones with imperfect Phylotaxis are also included.
Susan Happersett

“Passage + Obstacle” at University of Waterloo Art Gallery – Canada

This year the Bridges Math Art conference was held at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. To coordinate with the conference, the University Art Gallery (UWAG) presented the exhibit “Passage + Obstacle”, featuring work that addresses the mission of the Bridges organization, as well as metaphorical bridges that allow transport over obstacles.

“Protogon Shift” (triptych), Andrew James Smith, 2014
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

In Andrew James Smith’s triptych painting “Protogon Shift”, each of the three canvases begins with a triangle at its center. A series of 98 polygons are connected to form a spiral composed of all straight lines. Leading us from the most basic polygon (triangle ) to the most complex.

“Protogon Shift” (triptych), Andrew James Smith, 2014 (side view)
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

The images changes appearance depending on the viewer’s vantage point in the gallery.

“Composition in Red, Green, And Blue”, Laura De Decker, 2013
Digital animation – gallery still shot 
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Laura De Deckers video “Composition in Red, Green, And Blue” was created using custom computer code written by the artist to create prints. Using just the three colors De Decker transforms computer language to abstract visual images. Here is just a short sample of the video.
The Bridges conference also sponsored its own art exhibition which I will write about in future blog posts.
Susan Happersett