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
The current exhibition at Pace Gallery takes its name from the Edgar Allan Poe poem from 1848. The press release contains a quote from the poem: “I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical-of the Material and Spiritual Universe: of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny…….”
This group show features work form the 1840’s to 2010 that builds a links between science and Mathematics and the artistic spirit. In one of the first galleries there is a copy of Edwin Abbot’s 1884 book “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions”. In this novel Abbott creates a two dimensional society and introduces a three dimensional character with interesting results and exciting prospects about further dimensional expansion. Abbott’s art allows his readers to imagine the possibility of a fourth dimension, a Mathematical idea that was very new at the time.
Installed in the largest room of the gallery is Tim Hawkinson’s large rotating sculpture “Gimbled Klein Basket” a wonderful homage to the “Klein Bottle”. A Klein Bottle is an impossible form first introduced by mathematician Felix Klein in 1882. Like a Moebius strip it has only one side, but a Klein Bottle has no boundaries, whereas a moebius strip has boundaries at its edges. Compare to, for instance, a sphere, which has no boundaries either.
The basket structure of Hawkinson’s “Gimbled Klein Basket” creates an interesting grid pattern on the shape, adding another visual element to the form. The hand crafted quality of the object makes it seem as if this shape is actually possible in 3-D. By rotating the sculpture the viewer has a chance to examine the form from all angles.
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.