“The Ritual of Construction” at the Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock, New York

The Kleinart/James Center for the Arts at the Byrdcliffe Guild in Woodstock, NY is currently presenting the exhibition “The Ritual of Construction. Curated by Jeanette Fintz, the show features work that has a foundation in geometry. Basic ¬†mathematical ¬†structures like circles, squares, and other polygons have been elevated through ritualistic repetition.

Benigna Chilla, “Crescents” 2013, Vegetable pigments and acrylic on canvas
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

This large unstretched canvas by Benigna Chilla features a grid of circles segmented into squares and rectangles through the use of subtle coloration. An overlying pattern of six crescents incorporate a reflective symmetry. Chilla’s banner-like paintings have the spirit of devotional and meditative mandalas.

Stephen Westfall, “Live for Tomorrow”, 2010, oil and alkyd on canvas
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Stephen Westfall’s painting “Live for Tomorrow” is a colorful feast of reflective symmetry. The hard edge bands cutting diagonally across the four rectangles form a central square. Part of the interior section of the painting features order-4 rotational symmetry, but Westfall’s use of rectangles does not allow this to carry through the entire structure of the work, creating a kinetic pulse of color. I should probably mention that Stephen Westfall was my professor of Art Theory when I was in graduate school and I have always admired his work.

Laura Battle “Prism” 2016, Graphite on gray Arches paper
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Laura Battle “Prism” 2016, Graphite on gray Arches paper (Detail)
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Through the use of an astonishingly detailed repetitive accumulation of straight lines and concentric circles, Laura Battle creates “Prism”. From a distance, the subject of the drawing appears to be the central parallelogram that strategically touches all four edges of the drawing. Upon closer inspection it becomes apparent the real theme is the relationship between the two types of lines straight and curvi-linear lines. The intense process necessary for creating such an intense drawing definitely highlights the ritual aspects of the entire exhibition,
I am always happy to see an art show with a geometric intention. This diverse presentation goes a step further and asks us to go beyond the mathematical logic and think about geometry as a spiritual experience.
Susan Happersett
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Transmutations – Benigna Chilla at Tibet House NYC

Benigna Chilla has incorporated mathematics into her art practice throughout her career. Her recent, large scale canvasses on display at Tibet House are inspired by her stay in Bhutan in 2011.

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Overview of the exhibition
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Chilla has included small segments of cultural pattern and textiles into the texture of these paintings. This enhances the connections between the bold symmetries and traditional Tibetan Art. In the painting “Two black Triangles” there is the obvious reflection symmetry of the black triangles, but there are also subtle almost-reflective symmetries. Near the bottom of the canvas there two added sculptural elements, but the right one is higher than the left. On the right hand side of the bottom border there are two red triangles with grey circles on top. On the left hand side, the triangles re grey, but the circles¬† are red.

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Two Black Triangles – Mixed Media – 8′ x 6′ – 2012
Picture courtesy of the artist

The painting “Full Moonstone” features a large central Mandala with 8-fold rotational symmetry.

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Full Moonstone – Mixed Media on Canvas – 8′ x 6′ – 2013
Picture courtesy of the artist

In the press release for this exhibition, Chilla discusses the importance of both the meditative and physical processes involved in the creation of these works. There are not many artists who can discuss creating mathematical symmetries and meditation, and I personally find that combination very inspiring.

Susan Happersett