There are a number of Upper East Side galleries that display museum caliber exhibitions of historically significant art. The current show at the Dominique Lévy gallery “Drawing Then, Innovation and Influence in American drawings of the Sixties” is an excellent example. It features work by some of my favorite artists like Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, and Cy Twombly. The list goes on and on, there is even a Sol Lewitt wall drawing.
There are two works on display that relate the most directly to Mathematics. Mel Bochner’s “3” from 1966, is an homage to a Sierpinski Triangle. An equilateral triangular grid formation has been strategically filled in with hand written number 3’s and words that begin with letters “Tri”. The positive and negative shapes created delineate the fractal construction of a Sierpinski Triangle.
The second drawing is Josef Albers’ “Reverse + Obverse” from 1962. This line drawing is a 2-D rendering of 3-D constructions.
Josef Albers -“Reverse+Obverse” – 1962 Picture courtesy of the gallery
Both the top and bottom pairs of the figures employ a 180 degree rotation, an order-2 rotational symmetry. This work is a geometric expression of a form turning through space.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the MOMA’s ground breaking 1976 exhibition, “Drawing Now”. The current show at Dominique Lévy gallery is true to this historical reference, focusing on work from the turbulent years from 1960-1969. There is a wide range of work on display from drawings with social commentary, to drawings exploring the aesthetics of minimalism and conceptual rule-based art.
In 1965, Roman Opalka began his mission to paint the numbers from 1 to infinity consecutively. In that year, on a black canvas, he painted the number 1 in the upper left corner with a tiny brush and white paint. He continued this practice through 233 canvases over more than forty years. The title of this monumental work is “1965/1- ∞”. Each of the individual canvases is simply titled “Détails”. There are between 20,000 and 30,000 numbers on each canvas. In 1968 the artist switched to a gray background, then after counting to one million, he added 1 percent more white pigment to each new background until 2008 when the work became white on white.
The Dominique Lévy Gallery on the Upper East side of Manhattan is exhibiting a selection of paintings from “1965/1-∞”, as well photographs of the artist that he took everyday in front of the canvas on which he was currently working. This photo documentation of time passing and the artist aging, creates an especially poignant message. There was no way for Opalka to actually reach infinity in his paintings. It is the poetic nature of these canvases that relates the spirituality of counting. The artist addresses the importance of numbers in the human psyche to signify progression.The concentration required to physically paint this list of consecutive numerical digits seems like a meditation on both time and mortality. Pictures courtesy of the gallery and the artist.