The largest of all of the Art Fairs in New York City last week was the Armory Show that was on two huge piers (92 and 94) on the Hudson river. A wide range of work was exhibited, I have just chosen a sampling of more recent work with Mathematical themes.
I was still in line to check my coat when I spotted Bernar Venet’s steel sculptures across the aisle. The title of the work above, “11 Acute Unequal Angles”, is a perfect description of the geometric theme of the work. It is always exciting to see work that so directly embraces the mathematics.
This next work, by Shannon Bool, is a large- scale oil and batik on silk. The fabric is slightly transparent and backed with a mirror which creates an interesting repetition of the design, as well as a slight ghost of the reflection of the viewer. Through the use of grids and diagonals, there is a reference to the geometry of architecture.
This eight foot tall painted plywood column by Brandon Lattu consists of 12 stacked prisms. Each prism has a regular polygon as its base. The top form has is triangular, the second is square. The third one has a pentagonal base, and so on. Each subsequent prism has bases with one extra side. The prisms are stacked in such a way that a vertex from each prism lines up to create a vertical line.
When you walk around the structure you can see the different angles. This work is a great visual example of a numeric progression in terms of the number of sides in each section. It also compares the different angles found in regular polygons.
Jim Iserman’s acrylic painting is a pulsating homage to hexagons. This work is made like a tiling. Each hexagon is created using three rhombi. By situating the yellow bands to meet at the center, Iserman creates a Y-pattern. The forms take on the presence of cubes jumping off the surface.
The Armory show is an overwhelming experience. It takes hours to even get a superficial overview. There were a myriad of other works of art that relate to mathematics at this venue. It was difficult to chose just a few.
It is the first week of March, time for galleries from all over the world to display art at one of the half dozen large fairs in New York City. Since a lot of my own work involves paper, it makes sense that my first stop this year was the Art on Paper Fair. Here is just a quick overview of some of the work I thought had interesting mathematical connections.
Holger Hadrich makes complex, collapsible geometric structures out of steel wire, and then photographs them in a way that dissolves the pure determination of the geometry into a feeling of a fleeting memory. The context chosen is often an ordinary place that implies motion, or transition. Sidewalks, asphalt and rivers recur with the superimposition of a delicate geometric structure.
These objects rarely obscure their backdrop but rather hover like an apparition. One can see right through them, as one could see through a ghost. In his hands, the timeless geometry of the Archimedean solids are presented as movable objects that we pass by in a fleeting world. The context for his creations underscore the idea of passage and form a sequence of ordinary by-ways transformed by an ongoing internal conversation with mathematical form.
The objects themselves are based on polyhedra, which are usually conceived of as solid. In his hands, however, they are rendered flexible and collapsible. Their web-like delicacy show precision and immense patience. One can almost imagine the object being turned in hand as careful attention is paid to the vertices. In many cases they are punctuated by small brass washers or carefully formed loops, which form a secured but collapsible hub. A different aspect of the work is made apparent when the objects are held in the hands. They are designed to be collapsible. Many are collapsible along more than one axis. To understand the collapsibility of his constructs it is best to handle them or see them in motion. His video Medusa Tower below shows one of his structures expanding from a depth of about three inches to nearly five meters.
Art historians from Vasari to Wöfflin have debated the supremacy of linear versus painter pictorial devices in art. These works are both simultaneously linear and painterly (malerisch). The absolute clarity of the mathematic constructs is intentionally obscured to become integral to the partially dissolved, or transient clarity of the object as photographed. These linear forms become painterly through Hadrich’s lens. The geometric forms are pulled out of the originating mathematical abstractions and into our ordinary life, where they seem to hover on the brink of collapsing and disappearing.
To quote Wölfflin: “Composition, light and color no longer merely serve to define the form, but have their own life absolute clarity has been partly abandoned to enhance the effect.” The resolutely normal sidewalks and fragments of asphalt are also transformed when viewed through the orderly but complex web of geometric construction of wire. One immediately intuits a precise order that stands against our own transience and feels patient, quiet and timeless.
You can find more about Hadrich’s work on his Facebook page.
This is Sarah Stengle’s first contribution to this blog. Sarah is an artist and writer based in St Paul, Minnesota.
This Saturday, February 18 at 12 Noon EST, I will be speaking about mathematical art at the CAA’s annual conference at the Hilton Midtown in New York. I will be focusing on the works I have made in collaboration with Purgatory Pie press, which will be on display (and for sale).
Although Roy Colmer was well known for his photographic work, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s he produced a series of paintings on canvas. Currently on display at Lisson Gallery, this work was created by using tape to make bright horizontal bands of color, that where then painted over using a spray gun.
The practice of spraying a mist of paint applied a gradient of opacities over the hard-edge parallel lines. The resulting optical quality of the work relates to Colmer’s use of – what he referred to as – “feedback” in his film and video work. These techniques seem to bend and distort the canvas plane altering the nature of the parallel line.
James Siena artistic practice incorporates the use of rules to create art. I have written about his type writer work, as well as his sculptures, in earlier posts. Obviously I am a fan, and I was very excited to be able to see some of his recent drawings at the Pace Gallery on 24th st. This exhibition features work from three different series; “Manifolds,”, “Wanderers” , and “Nihilism”. All of the drawings are hand-drawn, geometric studies but the the series I feel that has the most Mathematical implications is “Manifolds”.“Manifold X” from 2015 addresses the artist’s interest in the field of Topology. Topology studies the properties of surfaces allowing them to change through the manipulations of bending growing and shrinking without being cut or broken or having attachments added. In “Manifold X” the orange, yellow and blue surfaces are homeomorphic, they each have nine holes within their shapes . The green surface is different because it ha sixteen holes. The four surface are woven together but each individual shape does not intersect itself. Siena has managed to take a fairly complex field in mathematics and develop a system of rules to create work that aesthetically beautiful and also expresses his affinity for the subject matter from which it is derived.Susan Happersett
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.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.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.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.
To celebrate tenth anniversary of the “Crochet Coral Reef” project The MAD museum in NYC is featuring an impressive installation. The project is the work of Margaret and Christine Wertheim through the organization they founded; The Institute for Figuring. By utilizing the properties of the crocheting to create hyperbolic surfaces, they have created textile art that represents the complicated structures of coral. The first artist to create hyperbolic forms through this method is Cornell Mathematician Daina Taimina in 1997. The Wertheims elaborated on these geometries to create the organic forms now on display.
The wall texts at the Museum offer nice explanations of Euclidean, Spherical and Hyperbolic geometry.
Some of the sculptures in the show are monumental in size, constructed with a multitude of forms.
The installations are very grand and beautiful but they also address numerous topics: the mathematical properties found in marine biology and the concept of “woman’s work” through the arduous communal effort to create these impressive structures. The most important topic, however, is the urgent need to inform the public of the dire situation of the world’s coral reefs. The warming earth, combined with water pollution from plastic trash, are endangering the living reefs.
Even so, wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!
Renowned Mexican painter Francisco Castro-Leñero has a long history of abstract geometric themes. His current exhibition at the Howard Scott Gallery features a brilliant selection of painting created between 2004 and today.
“Mandala (tres tiempos)”, which was painted this year, uses a 12 by 12 square grid format. The length of the side of the squares become the length of each of the radii used to create circular arcs, with the centers of the circles located at the corner of grid squares. The arcs have measurements of 90 degrees, 180 degrees, or 270 degrees. This technique allows Castro-Leñero to create undulating ribbons. The outer rows and columns of the painting have a white background with colored arcs on the left side and black and grey arcs on the left. The 6 by 6 grid at the center of the canvas features a a black background with white and grey arcs. This center square reinforces the contrast between the linear and curvi-linear geometry, as well as positive and negative space. By mapping a vocabulary of squares and circles, and displaying a virtuosity of color Castro-Leñero’s paintings build intricate geometric structures.