Bridges Conference 2019 – Linz, Austria

The annual Bridges Math/Art Conference was held in Linz, Austria this year. The art exhibition is an important part of the proceedings. I always find interesting new work feature on this blog.

This year there was a particularly diverse selection of work on display.

Master fiber artist Elaine Krajenke Ellison uses the art of quilt making to illustrate mathematical phenomenon. The hand-sewn quilt titled “The Sum Of Odd Integers” accomplishes the difficult feat of representing all 17 symmetry patterns.

Krystyna Burczyk creates 3-D sculptures by cutting, folding, and twisting sheets of paper. “Platenbau” features curved rectangular planes formed into a sphere using a complex interior structure but no adhesives.

Susan Happersett

The Whitney Biennial 2019

Every two years the Whitney Museum pulls together an exhibition that is a survey of contemporary American Art. The curators this year, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockly, emphasized current societal and political concerns. I was skeptical that I would find work with mathematical references, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Christine Sun Kim series of charcoal drawings “Degrees of Deaf Rage” charts the personal frustration and anger at various situations. In order to express the range of emotions Kim uses the concept of geometric angles. Acute,right and obtuse angles become measuring tools to gauge the rage in different scenarios.”Degrees of Deaf Rage in the Art World” from 2018 illustrates the difficulties of a deaf artist navigating the art world.

This close up shows the “OBTUSE RAGE” of “VISITING ARTISTS WHO AREN’T COMFORTABLE WITH INTERPRETERS”. The artist is making schematic drawings to express personal and sociological angst using basic geometric forms familiar to everyone.
Agustina Woodgate’s installation “National Times”, 2016/2019 consists of a room with clocks lining the walls connected to the power grid, all showing he same time. This is the same set-up used in schools, factories and other buildings for over 100 years. One digital “master” clock sends the signal to all of the other analog “slave” clocks. This created uniformity through out the building and repetition in this gallery. The ever-present numerical time pressure is palpable in the room.

Upon closer inspection you notice the numbers on the slave clocks are being slowly erased. Woodgate has attached sandpaper to the backs of the hands of the clocks. The “master” clock will eventually be the only one showing the digits. By removing the numerals the pressure of time will be somehow eased. I feel this work expresses the way numbers especially when used to track time in a workplace can have an emotional negative connotation.

Susan Happersett

Irma Blank at Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery

The Luxembourg & Dayan gallery on the Upper East Side is presenting “Irma Blank painting between the lines” The work in this exhibition explores the visual structure of written language. Blank developed a process to represent text through gestural mark making without using actual alphabets or words.

In “Radical Writings, poem for Gaston Bachelard”, oil on canvas from 1995 Blank illustrates the basic geometry of the traditional codex book form. There is a vertical central spine and the evenly spaced horizontal lines.

Using linear parallel brush strokes to substitute for written language, the artist has removed the literal content from the concept of a book and focused on the abstract shapes and lines.

Susan Happersett

Jordan Belson at Mathew Marks

Mathew Marks Gallery’s currently exhibition ” Jordan Belson: Paintings 1950-1965″ features 23 painting  some never seen before) and 4 films. Jordan Belson was a renowned, ground breaking film maker. His work was heavily influenced by the psychedelic activities in San Francisco during the 1950’s, but he was committed to the use of science and geometry in both his films and his paintings.

“Porazzo Polyhedra”, casein, tempera and pastel on board from 1965 incorporates pentagons and octagons to form a sphere. This is a clear reference to Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes.

This “Untitled” painting also from 1965 shows the artist’s interest in circles and rotational symmetry.

Belson did not exhibit his paintings after 1950. Looking at his work today we can see his paintings were ahead of their time and foreshadow the work of painters in the late 1960’s and 1970’s

Susan Happersett

Call for Artist’s Statements for Journal of Mathematics and the Arts (JMA) Special Issue

The Journal of Mathematics and the Arts has announced an upcoming special issue devoted to artist’s statements. I will be editing this issue as a guest editor.
A lot of artists are not familiar with the concept of Math Art and I am often asked what is Math Art?  Here is my definition: In order to be considered Math Art, art work must meet one or more of these three criteria:
(1) The work is created using mathematics,
(2) it presents mathematical themes,or
(3) it is expressing the effects of mathematics on society.
Any artist who makes work that falls into any of these classifications are encouraged to submit their statement for publication. You can find the submission guidelines here.
Susan Happersett

Alicja Kwade on the roof at the MET

Each Spring the Metropolitan Museum of Art unveils a new installation. This year the museum is presenting an Alicja Kwade”s installation titled “Parapivot”.The two steel and stone sculptures are based on perceptions of solar systems. Each is comprised of a series of rectangular black steel frames with stone orbs balanced on the beams. One structure features 3 intersecting rectangles and the other has 5 rectangles.
Here is the sculpture with 5 rectangles.
Each of the five frames are perpendicular to the ground. Looking at the work from a distance the view of the rectangular frames is distorted, appearing to be trapezoids and other irregular quadrilaterals.
Focusing on the  intersecting lines of the bases of the rectangles helps to understand how the shapes have been arranged in space. Building  a 3-D steel line drawing to create flat open planes juxtaposed with the weightiness of the stone spheres Kwade presents questions of perception.
Susan Happersett

Jean-Luc Moulène at Miguel Abreu Gallery

The Miguel Abreu Gallery is currently presenting a group show titled “Mostly Early Works by Gallery Artists”. One of the works o display is an onyx sculpture from 2015 by Jean-Luc Moulène titled “Sample (Onyx)”
The sculpture is composed of five rounded cones. Two pointed in opposite directions to form an axis. The remaining three are jutting out perpendicularly to the axis.
The three cones around the axis are positioned at 120 degree intervals to create order 3 rotational symmetry. This symmetry is visible when  the work is viewed at a looking straight at the points of the axis.
Susan Happersett

“Spilling Over Painting Color in the 1960’s”

The Whitney Museum’s current exhibition “Spilling Over Painting Color in the 1960’s” features work from their collection that explore the perception of bold color. Geometry was a powerful vehicle of expression for a number of artists represented.
Alvin Loving’s  “Septehedron 34” acrylic on shaped canvas from 1970 presents a 3-D projection of an imaginary seven sided figure on to the 2-D plane. Made up of a lattice of seven right triangles , the viewer is looking directly at one triangular face, surrounded by three other triangles with the three remaining triangles intersecting in the background.
“The Fourth of the Three” from 1963 by Richard Anuszkiewicz has only three colors of paint but the image created appears to have a much more complex palate of various intensities. The undulating grid of not quite all squares was manipulated by varying width of the red lines between the shapes. Using a mathematical plan, the lines are thin at the four sides square panel, then growing thicker,  before getting thin again at the center. This creates the optical illusion of movement.
Susan Happersett

Playing Games: Chance, Skill, and Abstraction at Ricco/Maresca

The exhibition “Playing Games: Chance, Skill, and Abstraction” at the Ricco/Maresca gallery presents antique handmade game boards along with contemporary paintings that feature the similar mathematical imagery. Before parlor games were mass-produced artisans hand painted the geometric patterns onto wood boards.
This is late 19th century American Anonymous example of a Parcheesi variation board game employs flat color shapes and rotational symmetry comparable to a 20th century abstract painting.
George Widener has created work that continues that tradition.
“Magic Squares” the mixed media work from 2016 is 16 framed rectangular sheets presented in a 4X4 arrangement. Each one features a number from 1 to 16. The magic is in the arrangement, the numbers in each row, column, and diagonal add up to 34!
The numbers each have a unique background with circles and a series of text of month stamps.
Susan Happersett

Arakawa at Gagosian Gallery

“Diagrams for the imagination” at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue features work produced by Arakawa between 1965 and 1984. Using words as well as geometric images these works function as schematic drawings for abstract themes.
“NO! Says the Volume”” from 1978, prominently displays a dodecahedron in the foreground possibly alluding to the text and title. Above the dodecahedron is a partial ring that is segmented into a black to white gradient from left to right, ending in the unexpected yellow. The use of gray scale is a way to represent a 3-D form with volume on a 2-D plane.
“Waiting Voices” from 1976-1977 is a two panel work. The left hand side has diagram of a cone within a cone and and a partial diagram of a cylinder within a cylinder. The text for this work is all positioned from the left side.
The work in this exhibition incorporates both poetry and mathematical renderings. Arakawa creates a connection between the measured accuracy of the geometric figures, imagination and emotion.
Susan Happersett