I have just see two different solo exhibitions where the artists had very different ways of using geometric patterns in their work.
Kristen Schiele at Lu Magnus Gallery
Spirit Girls – Kristen Schiele Picture courtesy pf the artist and the gallery
At the Lu Magnus gallery Kristen Schiele has an exhibition titled “Spirit Girls”. This show is Schiele’s expression of the future world her young daughter will experience. There are layers of figurative illustrations and geometric patterning.
Here is a view of the gallery wall with a series of patterned parallel boards installed in a corner. This alludes to the layers of lines and patterns in the rest of the work. What interests me about this work is the silk screen overlays and underlays of mathematical lines and shapes. They created a disjointed quality to the work. Schiele seems to be using the parallel lines, radiating lines, and star and triangle grids as a metaphor for travel into the future.
Spirit Girls – Kristen Schiele Picture courtesy pf the artist and the gallery
In “Spirit Girls”, an acrylic painting with silkscreen the sliver of a woman’s profile is at the center of the work, with an explosion of lines radiating from behind. There are also sections of geometric patterning. To me, the use of these mathematical patterns express the non-linear nature of Schiele’s projected future society. This is an excellent example of the use of mathematical forms being used to make art about sociology.
Amanda Valdez at Denny Gallery
Artist Amanda Valdez incorporates geometry into her work as a connection to Art History. At the Denny Gallery, Valdez is exhibiting paintings in her solo show titled “Thick as Thieves”, that incorporate quilt elements. These pieced fabric sections relate to the Bauhaus workshops, Islamic design, as well as traditional quilts.
Amanda Valdez – Wild Goose Chase (2014) Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery
In the work “Wild Goose Chase” 2014, fabric and gesso on canvas, there is a large central shape made out of fabric columns of isosceles triangles. The direction of the triangles’ points and bases alternate from one column to the next, creating a glide reflection symmetry. There are horizontal lines of reflection and then a horizontal translation.
Both Kristen Schiele and Amanda Valdez use geometric patterns in their work. Schiele”s work is inspired by the future, while Valdez has plumbed a wide scope of artistic traditions to connect with the present.
The German artist Pius Fox is having his first solo exhibition in New York City at Pablo’s Birthday Gallery. The title of the show is “We expected something better than before” and features wonderful abstract paintings, whose geometries are based on interior architectural elements. I have chosen two works that seem to me to have the most mathematical significance.
Pius Fox – Zeitland Schaft – Oil on Canvas – 2014 Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery
The first painting is “Zeitland Schaft”, an oil painting from 2014. This work features four rectangles. Each is bisected diagonally to form eight right triangles. What I find interesting about this work is how it relates to the work of Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich. Malevich used the geometric forms as his subject matter: the paintings were traditional in the fact that, even though he was depicting abstract themes, they were still pictures of shapes within a background. In Mondrian’s square canvases the square itself becomes both the format and the subject. There is no longer a delineation between subject and artwork. I feel that in some ways Fox’s work is taking this use of geometric forms a step further. In this painting rectangles and triangles might – at first glance – seem to be the subject of this work, but in fact it is much deeper. The geometric shapes are a vehicle for Fox’s use of layers of color and his lush painting technique. The symmetrical properties of the painting – for example the glide reflections in the placement of the pink and yellow triangles – enhance the relationships of colors, making them seem to glow.
Pius Fox – Untitled (PF 1403-41) – Oil on canvas – 2014 Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery
The next painting I would like to discuss is an untitled oil on canvas also from 2014. I Particularly like the use of both line and solid shapes this painting. Dividing the rectangular canvas into four columns and four rows, Fox has set up an interesting grid to draw lines connecting the points of intersection on the grid. Lightly drawing in both diagonals of each rectangular grid cell, he fills in a dark isosceles triangle in the top half of each. This creates a strong pattern that superimposes the other lines of the painting. Behind the triangles there is a 180 degree rotational symmetry to the red blue and gold lines. Looking at this painting the viewer gets the feeling that it is about more than just the geometry. Again,the shapes are the language that Fox is using to convey a sense of place.
Dikko Faust is the printer and co-owner of Purgatory Pie Press, a letter press publishing company in Tribeca, Manhattan that he runs together with Esther K. Smith. Faust also teaches a course on Non-Western Art History at the City University of NY. It was his experience in looking at Non-Western patterning that has lead to his recent series of prints called Tesselations. The prints are made by hand setting bits of lead to create the pattern, using only red and black ink. Each patterned print has its own set of distinct symmetries. Today, I will discuss two prints from the series.
The first one is “Tesselation 4 -Nessonis 1: Pyrassos”. Printed on the back of the card is the following descriptive text: “A serving suggestion for a Middle Neolithic stamp seal design found in three sites in Northern Greece”:
Dikko Faust – Nessonis 1: Pyrassos – Hand set block print – 2012
I see this print as a fragment of a wallpaper symmetry, because the repetition in the pattern is based on the symmetries between the shapes. The white figures with the black outlines that resemble a $ or an S and the 8 red squares around them have order 2 rotational symmetry. If you rotate the figure 180 degrees, you have the same figure again. Each of the $ or s shapes has glide reflection symmetry with the upside down $ or S in the rows above and beneath it. In a glide reflection symmetry we see the mirror image of the original shape, but then it is glided or moved along the plane (in this case, along the paper).
The second print is “Tesselation 6- Magnified Basketweave”. The text on the back of the print states “aka Monk’s Cloth or Roman Square Quilt As seen on NYC sewer covers”:
Dikko Faust – Magnified Basketweave – Hand set block print – 2013
This print is a great example of reflection symmetry. It has two lines of symmetry: one horizontal though the center, and one vertical through the center. Another interesting mathematical feature of this print is the similarity between the larger sets of black or red bars and the smaller sets. Two figures are similar if they have the same shape and are only different in size. Both the large set of bars and the small set of bars form two sides of a square: all squares are similar. The inner rectangle of larger bars measure 5 sets by 7 sets. It requires a rectangle of 11 sets by 15 sets of the smaller squares of bars to frame the large rectangle. There is a border with the width of one small square, so after subtracting 1 set from each dimension, we have the inner rectangle of 5 by 7 surrounded by a 10 by 14 rectangle of smaller sets of bars. The ratio of the dimensions of the larger to the smaller is 2:1.
Faust has made a whole series of these striking Tesselation prints. He has been inspired by what he has encountered teaching art history, and what he sees all around him looking at art, and in the case of Tesselation 6, the streets of New York City. The mathematics in these prints go beyond the patterns themselves and connect the viewer with distant times and cultures, and links us all in a visual aesthetic.