James Siena artistic practice incorporates the use of rules to create art. I have written about his type writer work, as well as his sculptures, in earlier posts. Obviously I am a fan, and I was very excited to be able to see some of his recent drawings at the Pace Gallery on 24th st. This exhibition features work from three different series; “Manifolds,”, “Wanderers” , and “Nihilism”. All of the drawings are hand-drawn, geometric studies but the the series I feel that has the most Mathematical implications is “Manifolds”.“Manifold X” from 2015 addresses the artist’s interest in the field of Topology. Topology studies the properties of surfaces allowing them to change through the manipulations of bending growing and shrinking without being cut or broken or having attachments added. In “Manifold X” the orange, yellow and blue surfaces are homeomorphic, they each have nine holes within their shapes . The green surface is different because it ha sixteen holes. The four surface are woven together but each individual shape does not intersect itself. Siena has managed to take a fairly complex field in mathematics and develop a system of rules to create work that aesthetically beautiful and also expresses his affinity for the subject matter from which it is derived.Susan Happersett
Pace Gallery on 25th street in Chelsea is currently presenting the geometric sculptures of James Siena. Well known for his algorithmic paintings, Siena has been making sculptures throughout his career. At first working with tooth picks, and now new work using bamboo skewers, as well as bronze casts of previous pieces. Some of the work has very clear geometric patterns and others seem more chaotic. I have chosen two of the bamboo sculptures that are about a particular mathematical geometric phenomenon.
“Richard Feynman” from 2014 is a great illustration of self-similarity in three dimensions. Named after the famous 20th century Theoretical Physicist, this work is a cube within a cube within a cube. Each cube structure is composed of 4 by 4 by 4 cubes. Four of smallest cubes make up one cube in the medium cube structure and four of the medium cubes make up one of the large cubes on the large cube structure. Using the bamboo skewers as lines in the 3-D space the artist has created grids on three different scales.
“Morthanveld: Inspiral, Coalescence, Rungdown” from 2014-2015 is complex tower created using 6 regular pentagons. Instead of stacking them at the same angle, Siena has twisted each consecutive pentagon 36 degrees. The finished sculpture is a spiraling geometric column. Siena uses a building technique of wrapping string around the vertices to to attach the bamboo skewers both in the interior and the exterior shapes. This requires a a very hands on process adding a human element to the Mathematical subject matter.
Pictures courtesy of the gallery and the artist.
James Siena has had a successful career creating algorithmically created abstract paintings. Some of his most recent work involves using manual typewriters and are on display at the Sargent’s Daughters Gallery on The Lower East side. Using a typewriter to create art is not a new phenomenon. For over a century artists have been experimenting with typewriters. The Bauhaus artist H.N. Werkman and the poets of the Concrete Poetry Movement of the 1960’s are good examples.
Siena creates mathematical visual poetry, using algorithms to determine which typewriter keys are pushed, and in which order. Instead of a pen, pencil, or brush with ink, lead or paint, Siena uses the the depression of the type writer keys and red or black typewriter ribbons to execute his mark making.
The drawing “Untitled (0-9, ten, eight, six, four, three, two, one)” features vertical zigzag pattern that is created by the visual variations of the digits. There are horizontal lines of reflection symmetry running through the chevron pattern.
In the work “Untitled (Flat Helix)” – a helix is a coil curve – the artist engages the viewer in an interesting counting exercise. The first row is all ones. The next ones and twos. the third row is ones, twos and threes. This continues until the digits go from one through nine and then zero. Below this solid section of text, the pattern changes with a row of all ones, then all twos, etc. Farther down the page spaces and shifts are introduced to the drawing adding zigzag elements.
I can only imagine the amount of planning and rule development required before Siena hit the first type writer key. The elegant patterns and poetry Siena coaxed from the manual printing process of these machines is amazing.