Infinity at the MET Breuer

This Spring the Metropolitan Museum of Art expanded its exhibition space into what used to be the Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue and is now called the “MET Breuer”. “Unfinished, Thoughts Left Visible” is one of the two of the inaugural shows. “Unfinished” features art which was never fully completed either by determination of the artist or by chance. On the forth floor of the museum there is a gallery with more abstract work that deals with the concept of infinity. The nature of the infinite creates a continuum in the work, thus alluding completion.

One of best visual interpretations that I have seen of Zeno’s Arrow Paradox is in the form animated video. “La Flecha de Zenon” by Jorge Macchi and David Oubina begins the way many movies begin, with a count down of numerals from ten to one, but, when you think some other action will start after one, the numbers are divided in two and expressed as a decimal. As the numbers get smaller and smaller the length of the decimal gets longer and longer until the digits get so small they seem to disappear. We are left to believe they go on forever and zero is unattainable.


Another artist in the exhibition that has a relationship with infinity is Roman Opalka. Beginning in 1965, he began a series of paintings on which he started to paint the numbers up to infinity. Each set of digits is hand painted in white on a grey background. The artist completed 233 canvases but of course never completed the project.

16-21-03These examples highlight the way numbers can be used as a tool to express themes of time and infinity and their effects on the human condition.

Susan Happersett


Pictures courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Math meets Art at the EA/B Fair in NYC

This weekend at the Editions/Artist’s Books Fair Purgatory Pie Press will be exhibiting limited edition letterpress artist’s books featuring my mathematical drawings. I have been collaborating with Purgatory Pie Press for fifteen years and we have published numerous Mathematically themed artworks.

“Box of Growth” is a set of five small accordion books. Each features a series of my counted marking drawings based on different growth patterns created using the Fibonacci Sequence.


Another topic we have explored is Cantor Set. “Infinity Remove” has two sides; one with self-similar gridded marking drawings, the reverse had famous quotes about Infinity.


“Fibonacci Flower” shows the development of a Mathematically generated flower using the Fibonacci Sequence.

61-3Our most recent project is “Box of Chaos” is a series of four paper sculptures with my fractal chaos drawings.


The EA/B Fair is free and open to the public this Friday (November 7, 2014) to Sunday at 540 West 21st Street NYC.

— FibonacciSusan

Roman Opalka at Dominique Lévy Gallery

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.
58-2Pictures courtesy of the gallery and the artist.

More MathArt next time,



Lower East Side Galleries – March 2014

The Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan has a large and varied gallery scene. Though there are fewer galleries here than in the Chelsea Area, there is still a lot of great art. The galleries in the LES tend to be smaller and more intimate then in other parts of NYC . Many of the galleries are newer and less established and will take on different types of work.

Gil Blank at Joe Sheftel Gallery

The Joe Sheftel Gallery  has a exhibition of photographs by Gil Blank that are an exploration of the night sky. Blank uses an interesting technique of taking thousands of photos throughout a year then superimposing them until they accumulate into a single image. He has created one for each year beginning in 1986. The black background of the dark night sky is removed and replaced by another color. This new color is determined using a digital random color generator.


Gil Blank – Unti­tled – 2012 – Pig­ment ink jet print on poly­ester film
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Here is a detail of the same work:

Gil Blank - Unti­tled - 2012 - Pig­ment ink jet print on poly­ester film   Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Gil Blank – Unti­tled – 2012 – Pig­ment ink jet print on poly­ester film (detail)
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

There are two elements to these photographs that appeal to my interest in mathematics. First, the choice of color for the background. By removing the dark night sky, Blank has taken stars in the sky and abstracted them to become geometric points on a plane. Then, allowing the new color to be digitally randomly generated, the algorithm of the generating software becomes part of the artistic process. The second mathematical component is the accumulation of thousands of these sets of points with each set already containing a multitude of points. This series of photographs work flirts with the concept of Infinity.

 Laura Watt at McKenzie Fine Art Gallery

Vector diagrams are an interesting starting point for making abstract art. Laura Watt uses vectors to structure the patterns in some of her oil paintings. There are two excellent example of this work exhibited in her solo show at McKenzie Fine Art gallery. In “Vector Finding” Watt has used series of vectors fanning out from points near the corners of the canvas. Then, the triangular areas bound within these rays, are filled in with diamond-shaped grids and arcs of circles. The final image resembles cone-shaped structures consisting of nets of lines.


Laura Watt – Vector Finding – 2014 – Oil on canvas
Picture courtesy of the gallery and the artist

In “Oriented Vision” the vectors are starting from only two points at the top and bottom left hand corners of the canvas. The artists uses arcs to give the illusion of a curved surface and there are multiple sets of rotated and superimposed grid patterns . This painting is reminiscent of a globe or map, but lines of latitude and longitude, however, are only one of the sets of grids. Watt embraces the use of vibrant and intricate patterning in her paintings. These two examples illustrate how mathematics can be part of this process.


Laura Watt – Oriented Vision – 2014 – Oil on canvas
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery