Roy Colmer at Lisson Gallery

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.

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Roy Colmer, “Untitled #57”, 1970
Picture courtesy of Lisson Gallery

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.

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Roy Colmer, “Untitled #133”, 1971
Picture courtesy of Lisson Gallery

Susan Happersett

James Siena at Pace

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”.
James Siena Manifold X, 2015 No. 61220 Format of original photography: digital Photographer: Tom Barratt

James Siena
Manifold X, 2015
No. 61220
Format of original photography: digital
Photographer: Tom Barratt

“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 at Paula Cooper Gallery

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.

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Fin – 2016
[copyright] Dan Walsh. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert

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.

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Debut, 2016
[copyright] Dan Walsh. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert

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.

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Circus, 2016
[copyright] Dan Walsh. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert

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.

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

Exhibition of Mathematical Art at JMM

This year the huge Joint Mathematics Meeting was held in Atlanta Georgia with over 6,000 attendees. A section of the exhibition hall was turned into a gallery space to present art work with mathematical connections. There were also dozens of talks presented by both mathematicians and artists on the topic of Mathematical Art.

During one of these talks, Sarah Stengle presented work from her collaboration with Genevieve Gaiser Tremblay. The large series of works on paper, titled “Criterion of Yielding”, uses stereoscopic images from the 1850’s as the background for drawings of diagrams from the book “Mathematics of Plasticity” written by Rodney Hill in 1950.

The work “Criterion of Yielding, Winter Scene” features a mathematical schematic based on the deformation of metals that creates a visual bridge between the solitary figure on each side of the stereoscopic card. To enhance the feeling of antiquity, the artist uses ground peridot gemstone to make the pigment. This process gives the color a sense of stains instead of paint alluding to the paper as artifact.

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The topic of plasticity revolves around the measurement of stress, strain, bending, and yielding. All these ideas are poetically associated to the human condition, both as individuals and with regards to our interactions. The layering of mathematical material over existing images presents an unexpected dichotomy. The additional process of pigmented staining and mark making instills each work with a sense of time.

Andrew James Smith developed a unique process of drawing regular polygons to create a spiral called a Protogon. The process to form a Protogon begins with a triangle and progresses with each new polygon sharing a side with the previous polygon and having one more side.

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“Proto Pinwheel” is a digital study for a large acrylic painting and is a pigment transfer on wood. For this work Smith has started with a yellow opaque Protogon shape and then rotated 120 degrees and layered subsequent Protogon shapes in varying transparent colors. The result is a spiral pulsing with energy.

More from JMM in a few days.

Susan Happersett

“Coral Crochet Reef: Toxic Seas” at the Museum of Arts and Design

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.

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Some of the sculptures in the show are monumental in size, constructed with a multitude of forms.

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“Coral Forest-Eryali” 2007-14 Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim, with Shari Portet, Marianne Midelburg, Heather McCarren, Una Morrison, Evelyn Hardin, Beverly Griffith, Helle Jorgensen, Anna Mayer and Christina Simons.

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Detail

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!

Susan Happersett

Flat File Show at Matteawan Gallery – Beacon, NY

The Matteawan Gallery in Beacon New York is currently exhibiting the work on paper of 17 diverse artists. Two of the artists, Greg Slick and Eleanor White, use geometric themes while exploring unique textural elements.

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Untitled 10 (“Fieldwork” series), Greg Slick 2016, Acrylic on used sand paper

This composition by Greg Slick features a 2 by 4 checker board grid centered on a square background made up of four pieces of used sandpaper. The proportions for hard-edge minimal painting is inspired by the dimensions of ancient archeological sites. There is an interesting dichotomy between the spare black and white grids and the rich, almost suede-like, surfaces of the used sandpaper.

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“Untitled 2015”, Eleanor White, 2015 pulverized roses, cocoa powder and paint

Eleanor White uses pulverized rose petals and cocoa powder to explore the properties of square grid overlapping circles. This work features complete and incomplete circles of the type in which each circle has four other circles intersecting at points with equal 90 degree arc lengths. White’s use of materials underscores the organic nature of circular formations.

Although all of the artists in this show work in very different themes and media, there is an underlying similar sensibility to the work. The gallery presents a cohesive experience of thoughtful and sensitive work that is not often seen in such a large group show.

Susan Happersett

Spencer Finch at James Cohan Gallery

Spencer Finch at James Cohan

The title of Spencer Finch’s show “My business is circumference” immediately lured me into the James Cohen gallery. The phrase is a quote from a letter Emily Dickinson wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

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Once inside, I was mesmerized by the installation “Thank You, Fog” that is comprised of 85 glass panels suspended from aircraft cable in a room with grey walls. The square panels gently sway and rotate with the slight air movement in the space. The panels have various degrees of opacity and are hung at different heights and intervals.  Looking into the fog, each vantage place through out the room offers a unique view.

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Spence Finch – “Thank You, Fog” – 2016 – Installation
Pictures courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Finch’s creative practice utilizes precise tools of measure to explore natural phenomena and then creates art to express the experience. The mathematics of measuring weather for this installation required the use of light meters and anemometers.  “Thank You, Fog” juxtaposes the ephemeral qualities of fog and mist with the geometric rigidity of the square planes of glass.

Susan Happersett

Francisco Castro-Leñero at the Howard Scott Gallery

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.

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Francisco Castro-Leñero – “Mandala (tres tiempos)” – 2016
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

“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.

Susan Happersett