“Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction” at MOMA

The MOMA in NYC is presenting an exhibition of work from their permanent collection, featuring abstract work produced by women between 1945-1968. Although abstraction was an important genre of art during this time period, the work created by women has been underappreciated. There is a wide range of art on display from gestural expressive paintings and drawings to the more geometric and calculated.

Běla Kolářová – “Five by four” – 1967

Běla Kolářová – “Five by four” – 1967 (detail)

For this assemblage “Five by Four”, Běla Kolářová used metal paper fasteners to count out the grid patterns that make up each of the 20 rectangles. These rectangles are then arranged in 4 columns, 5 rectangles high. The use of the paper fasteners (something found in any home or office) as a mark making vehicle adds extra personal element to the work.

Carmen Herrera – “Untitled” – 1952

This large scale canvas by Carmen Herrera features two isosceles triangles with their bases along the top of the painting. Using the tension of black and white vertical parallel stripes, Herrera has defined the shapes by swapping the colors at the sides of the triangles. This technique has created an visual energy along these lines that allows the triangles to pulsate. The geometry of this painting is so strong, you feel like you are being pushed back to view from a distance.
Susan Happersett

Kendall Shaw at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art – New Orleans

On the wall of the gallery next to Kendall Shaw’s painting “Sunship for John Coltrane” there is a quote from the artist: “How can I make a work so alive that one must react as if to a living creature overflowing with energy? I want to place life upon the wall.”
Surprisingly, to answer this aesthetic question Shaw enlisted the use of the most static of geometric forms, squares.

“Sunship for John Coltrane”, 1982

By stacking and four square canvases and rotating one 90 degrees the artists creates a sense of spinning movement.
Shaw’s  painterly technique consists of both planned gridded makings, and gestural drips and splashes. This produces kinetic visual energy that seems to be anchored in space only by the smallest square grid painted in white at the center of the work.
Susan Happersett

The Whitney Biennial

This year the Whitney Museum of American Art presents its 78th Biennial survey. I knew from media reports that the art selected heavily represented political and social current events. There was a wide cross section of themes including an emphasis on figural work, but there were two artists whose work dealt directly with geometric figures.

Matt Browning, untitled, 2016

Matt Brownings gridded wall sculptures were installed in small groupings through the two floors of exhibit. each grid of 26 cubes is hand carved from a single piece of wood forming an interlocking lattice work.
Brownings’ subject matter of the cubes relates to the perspective of minimalist geometric sculpture. His technique of painstakingly whittling the wood by hand takes the geometry to the unexpected realm of craft and folk art.

Larry Bell, “Pacific Red II”, 2017

Larry Bell’s laminated glass sculptures are installed on a roof terrace. Consisting of 6 large prisms featuring six foot by eight foot walls each enclosing a smaller six foot by four foot prism. The transparent nature of the material allows for a comparison of the proportions of the two sized boxes. All twelve have the same height but the interior forms are half as wide. The volume of the larger boxes are 4 times that of the interior boxes. I particularly like the way the sculptures are situated so that the viewer can see the surrounding buildings through the colored glass. The abstract geometry becomes part of the city scape.
Susan Happersett

The Twenty by Sixteen Biennial at Morgan Lehman Gallery

The Morgan Lehman Gallery is currently holding it’s second Twenty by Sixteen Biennial. Each of the 38 artists displays two works of art, each 20 inches tall and 16 inches wide. The mathematical rules of the allowed proportions of the art work intrigued me. With these limitations the style and subject matter of each participant becomes even more important.

Eric Doeringer 20″ and 16″ (After Mel Bochner) both 2017
Picture courtesy of the artist

These two canvases by Eric Doeringer reference the work of Mel Bochner and are a direct answer to the parameters of the exhibit.

Wendy Small “Remedy” color photogram, 2016
Picture courtesy of the artist

Wendy Small’s two photograms titled “Remedy” feature botanical patterns that have been replicated four times to create both horizontal and vertical lines of reflective symmetry.

Carly Glovinski “Leisure Weave 6”,Ink on paper, 2017
Picture courtesy of the artist

The creation of plaid patterns involves all sorts of geometric possibilities. Carly Glovinski uses pen and ink to develop intricate woven plaid patterns. The seven horizontal strips are all of the same coloration and pattern with a reflective line of symmetry. The vertical strips are more complex. The two outer strips are the same stripes of colors but reversed in order. The next two strips are the same and they both possess reflective symmetry. the center strip is a type all it’s own but it also has a vertical line of symmetry. With all of these separate configurations Glovinski was able to create a 20’X 16″ panel of plaid with a both horizontal and vertical lines of reflective symmetry.
This Biennial has an underlying mathematical theme, through the prescribed size of the art work. Some the artists used these proportions to create work that included geometric and symmetrical exploration.
Susan Happersett

Olafur Eliasson at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

“The listening dimension” , Olafur Eliasson’s current solo exhibition at the Tanya Bonakdar gallery, features a series of new interactive installations. The aesthetic qualities of each work changes as the viewer moves within the space.

Olafur Eliasson, “The listening dimension” (Orbit 3), 2017
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

The main room of the gallery features large mirrored walls. From a distance there appears to be a series of metal rings suspended, but as you get closer the rings are actually semi-circles attached to the mirrored wall. The physicality of the partial circles are made whole through the illusion of reflection.

Olafur Eliasson, “Space resonates regardless of our presence”, 2017
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

On the second floor of the gallery there are some light installations from Eliasson’s “Space resonates regardless of our presence” series, featuring concentric circles of light and shadow the sources of which reveal them self as you walk next to the instrumentation installed in the gallery.
The work in this show is about how perception changes with location. Though using basic geometric forms, circles, the optical manipulations are more significant.
Susan Happersett

Natura Mathematica at Central Booking Gallery

The Haber Space at Central Booking Gallery on the Lower East Side is currently presenting “Natura Mathematica”, curated by Maddy Rosenberg. This exhibition features the work of 24 artists and addresses the connection between the aesthetics of Mathematics and forms and patterns found in nature.

Erik Demiane & Martin Demaine, “Phylotaxis 959”, 2017
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artists

Erik and Martin Demaine’s  folded paper sculpture titled “Phylotakis 959” explores the Fibonacci double spirals found in sunflowers.

Amber Heaton, “Breakdown”, 2015
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Amber Heaton’s installation “Breakdown” also utilizes the Fibonacci Sequence. The number of strings in each vertical column increases from the outer edge on each on the perpendicular walls. Starting on each side  with one thread, then one thread again, then 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, then 55 near the corner. This work offers the viewer a very direct visual representation of the beauty of this growth sequence that is found in many natural phenomena.

Eva Mantell, “Untitled”, 2016
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Eva Mantell  “microcosm” series presents  3-D geometric line drawings using straws. This example features a series of acute triangles of various sizes radiating out from the center of the form.
“Natura Mathematica” displays a differs collection of work offering a broad exploration of the connections of Mathematical sequences series and formulae and the natural word.
Susan Happersett

“Lunar Attraction” at the Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts is currently featuring an exhibition titled “Lunar Attraction” at their Art & Nature center. This show includes a diverse selection of art that relates to the Moon, in both the scientific realm, as well as the mythological.
One of the scientific themes explored is the  moons connection to the earth’s tide.  Adrien Segal’s “Tidal Datum” from 2007 utilizes the numerical data from a tidal chart that maps the tidal patterns of the ocean in the San Francisco Bay. The undulating steel curves dip down the furthest and rise up the highest during new and full moons when there is the strongest gravitational pull. In this work the artist has directly transposed  mathematical information into a aesthetic expression of a natural phenomena.
Susan Happersett

College Art Association Conference Math Art Lecture

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).

College Art Association Conference
Hilton Hotel, 1335 6th Ave) at 53rd St
Second Floor – Rhinelander Gallery – Table 219
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Susan Happersett

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