The mathematics used in the study of crystallography relies heavily on geometry. Josiah McElheny’s “Crystalline Prism Painting” series – on view at Andrea Rosen Gallery – offers a unique expression of the visual qualities of crystal forms.
The painting in this series are a type of shadow boxes with a smooth glass over the 3-D press-molded polished glass crystals. This construction offers a foreground, the glass, a middle ground, the crystal sculpture elements, and as a background the black painted board. The glass crystals are both the subject of the artwork, as well as the physical material or medium of the work. Out of the frame they would be beautiful objects but by displaying them on a black background and hanging them on the wall the artist invites the viewer to look at them more closely. McElheny’s work showcases the geometries and symmetries of crystals.
On my recent visit to the Chelsea gallery district in Manhattan I noticed a number of exhibitions featuring art with Mathematical influences. At the Kim Foster Gallery there is a show of exquisite drawings by Paul Glabicki based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. These works have layers of scientific data, charts, and mathematical formulae. In drawing RELATIVITY #8 Glabicki has drawn a series of Pascal’s Triangles in the mix of images.
Glabicki- RELATIVITY #8
A Pascal’s Triangle is a triangular array made up of numbers. The number of terms in each row corresponds to the sequence number of the row. For example, the first row has one number (1) , the second row has two numbers (1,1), the third row has three (1,2,1). In Pascal’s Triangle, the first and last term of each row is 1. The middle terms are calculated by adding the two numbers directly above. Here is an example of a small Pascal’s Triangle.
1 2 1
1 3 3 1
1 4 6 4 1
1 5 10 10 5 1
In RELATIVITY #3 Glabicki has drawn Geometric studies of internally tangent circles. These circles share only one point and the smaller is inside the larger.
Glabicki – RELATIVITY #3
What I think is fascinating about these drawings is the way the mathematical and scientific elements are used as small pieces of the total work. They are transposed from abstract ideas into aesthetic elements of a much larger complex picture: the artist’s expression of the Theory of Relativity exploring the physics of time and space, through the arduous process of intense layering of images. Paul Glabicki is well known for his experimental animated films that use hand drawings.They have appeared at many film festivals and exhibits, including at the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale.
Austin Thomas at the Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden
At the Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden there is a show of work by Austin Thomas. Exhibited are twelve drawings on paper, all of which have interesting proportions and geometric elements. The work that seems to really express mathematical principles is a sculpture the artist refers to as a “steel drawing”, made of two black and two white rectangular prisms. These are 3-D line drawings and by stacking them in this perpendicular fashion Thomas presents a nice study on squares and rectangles. Viewing the work from different angles and positions throughout the gallery offers many possible relationships between shapes, as well as the positive and negative spaces created by the open structures. Although it does not move, this is not a static sculpture. The prisms can be stacked in other ways offering Thomas a multitude of permutations to explore.