Ruth Asawa studied at the Mountain College, and in the late 1940’s began making crocheted wire sculptures. This solo exhibition at at David Zwirner features a large collection of these hanging forms.
Almost all of the structures feature a vertical line of symmetry. No matter your vantage point in the gallery the reflective symmetry is visible.
This sculpture is referred to in the catalog as “Untitled, 1954, Hanging, Seven-lobed Continuous, Interwoven Form, with Spheres with in Two Lobes”. It shows another element of Asawa’s work: the interior and exterior forms change positions. They seem to flow through each other.
This phenomenon questions our preconceived ideas about the rules for inside and outside in a 3-D geometric shape.
Holger Hadrich makes complex, collapsible geometric structures out of steel wire, and then photographs them in a way that dissolves the pure determination of the geometry into a feeling of a fleeting memory. The context chosen is often an ordinary place that implies motion, or transition. Sidewalks, asphalt and rivers recur with the superimposition of a delicate geometric structure.
These objects rarely obscure their backdrop but rather hover like an apparition. One can see right through them, as one could see through a ghost. In his hands, the timeless geometry of the Archimedean solids are presented as movable objects that we pass by in a fleeting world. The context for his creations underscore the idea of passage and form a sequence of ordinary by-ways transformed by an ongoing internal conversation with mathematical form.
The objects themselves are based on polyhedra, which are usually conceived of as solid. In his hands, however, they are rendered flexible and collapsible. Their web-like delicacy show precision and immense patience. One can almost imagine the object being turned in hand as careful attention is paid to the vertices. In many cases they are punctuated by small brass washers or carefully formed loops, which form a secured but collapsible hub. A different aspect of the work is made apparent when the objects are held in the hands. They are designed to be collapsible. Many are collapsible along more than one axis. To understand the collapsibility of his constructs it is best to handle them or see them in motion. His video Medusa Tower below shows one of his structures expanding from a depth of about three inches to nearly five meters.
Art historians from Vasari to Wöfflin have debated the supremacy of linear versus painter pictorial devices in art. These works are both simultaneously linear and painterly (malerisch). The absolute clarity of the mathematic constructs is intentionally obscured to become integral to the partially dissolved, or transient clarity of the object as photographed. These linear forms become painterly through Hadrich’s lens. The geometric forms are pulled out of the originating mathematical abstractions and into our ordinary life, where they seem to hover on the brink of collapsing and disappearing.
To quote Wölfflin: “Composition, light and color no longer merely serve to define the form, but have their own life absolute clarity has been partly abandoned to enhance the effect.” The resolutely normal sidewalks and fragments of asphalt are also transformed when viewed through the orderly but complex web of geometric construction of wire. One immediately intuits a precise order that stands against our own transience and feels patient, quiet and timeless.
You can find more about Hadrich’s work on his Facebook page.
This is Sarah Stengle’s first contribution to this blog. Sarah is an artist and writer based in St Paul, Minnesota.
The use of computer generated drawing processes and inkjet printers is a popular means of expression at the Bridges conference. Some of the more interesting examples on display were created by David Chappell. The artist builds a system of rules to generate graceful line drawings that are mathematically to related plant growth through space and time. The lines begin from a rooted position at the horizontal bottom of the picture plane and playful grow up into reaching tendrils. In order to achieve this lyrical organic quality (not an easy feat using mathematical algorithm computer generation) Chappell modifies the rules throughout the process. This extra attention allows the drawings to change and develop in a more free-form manner.
Another means of creating computer assisted art is the use of laser cutting. In his work “Islamic Fractal Starflower”, Pill Webster has cut a lace-like pattern into a clear light blue acrylic sheet. The mathematics behind this pattern is a combination of two geometric themes: the symmetry in Islamic patterns and the recursive properties of fractals. This combination requires some heavy weight mathematics, but Webster’s choice of materials transforms the complex theories into an ethereal presence. It has the appearance of being built from delicate and complex ice crystal. The juxtaposition between the serious mathematical generation and delicate physicality of the work create an interesting tension.
Nathaniel Friedman is one of my favorite artists for two reasons. First, he creates wonderful sculptures and prints and second because he is a very supportive of other artists. As the founder of the organization ISAMA – The International Society of Art, Mathematics and Architecture, he contacted me years ago to speak at one of the first Math Art conferences. This was my introduction into a whole community of other artists and mathematicians devoted to the aesthetics of Mathematics. I will be eternally grateful to Nat.
But back to the sculpture…. “Triple Twist Mobius” consists of three equal-sized aluminum bars each with a single twist. They are joined to form a triangle shape. The clean lines and the simplicity of the form are deceiving, this is a powerful shape. The 2-D photo does not do it justice. In the gallery each vantage point offers a different geometry, it seems to change depending on where your stand. This act of looking at something from different perspectives is referred to as hyperseeing (a concept Friedman taught me, Thank You!)
Every Summer the Bridges organization holds a conference devoted to Mathematics and the Arts. Bridges is an international organization whose sole mission is to foster and explore these interdisciplinary connections. This year the meeting was held in Baltimore Maryland in the beautiful University of Baltimore Law building. Each year the Art exhibition is one of the highlights of the gathering. This year was a particularly impressive display of work in a light and open space over three floors. Here are two photos of the gallery.
It has been very difficult for me to just single out a few art works to write about, for a complete overview I suggest checking out the Bridges website. Today I will focus on two works by two different artists that struck me particularly.
I will start with a pencil drawings by Taneli Luotoniemi. I have a real affinity for hand drawing and I feel Luotoniemi is able to achieve a remarkable subtly of line form and grey scale using only a pencil. “The Hypercube” Is a 2-D representation of a 3-D depiction of a 4-D cube. There have been many example of two dimensional art referencing hyper cubes but this is definitely a a more organic representation then most. This is achieved by the use of thick curved lines that meet at crossings of more solid shapes, instead of small points. By adjusting the grey scale of the pencil mark Luotoniemi gives the lines the appearance of weaving over and under each other. This is one of the most graceful visual interpretations I have seen.
David H. Press builds elegant hanging sculptures that are a type of 3-D line drawings. The support structures are curved shapes but the wires within these frameworks are straight lines that form what appear to be curved surfaces. Symmetry plays a major role in Press’ work. In “Three Great ¾ Circles in Orange” the use of three circles would have created a sphere, but the ¾ circles create an asymmetrical frame work. Within the wire line work, however, there are some smaller areas with symmetrical properties. We are used to seeing complicated symmetries in Mathematical sculpture, but the use of the ¾ circles rips open the sphere, granting the viewer a fresh look.
There were so much interesting work on display this year it is hard to discuss it all in one blog post, I will write more next week.
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.
The exhibition “No Woman, No Cry” at Muriel Guépin Gallery features the work by three women whose subject matter is the female identity in society. They reference both the tradition of feminine crafts, as well cultural expectations.
Holly Laws has created a series of small, detailed, handmade models of historic garments. Her intricate “Cage Crinoline” sculptures show the mathematics involved in the design of these 19th century hoop skirt figure enhancers. They are on display under glass domes, hinting at the Victorian practice of preserving and displaying things like a tiny skeleton in a cabinet of curiosities.
The structure for “Cage Crinoline 1864” consists of a series of concentric ellipses. They have been used to create a vertical column with two perpendicular reflection planes of symmetry. With the utmost precision Laws has built a 3-dimensional expression of the aesthetic qualities of ellipses. This complex geometry has been used in a miniaturization of an undergarment that if it were an actual garment would not even be seen in public. The mathematics would be hidden under a showy display of skirt fabric. I was really drawn to this “Crinoline Cage” because it reminds me to look beneath the surface and in unexpected place to find the beauty in Mathematics.
The David Zwirner Gallery’s 20th Street branch in Chelsea is presenting a large show of the work by one of the most influential Dutch artists of the last half of the twentieth century, Jan Schoonhoven. A member of the Nul Groep in Holland, Schoonhoven was connected to the international art movement “ZERO Group”. The artist members of these groups worked to develop a type of art that was more objective then the more emotionally expressive art created after WWII. Schoonhoven established techniques to create monochromatic wall sculptures that relied on clean geometric lines to explore form,light, and shadows.
The rectangular grids like the ones seen in “R70-28” from 1970 are probably the types of structures that became most famous. A square relief sculpture with 5 columns with ten rows each. The white walls are the grid lines, creating rectangles with a 1:2 ratio of height to width. The exhibition at David Zwirner is quite inclusive and includes works on paper, earlier geometric work, as well as work featuring more complex geometry.
Schoonhoven used latex paint, paper, cardboard and wood to assemble these sculptures. The hand of the artist has given these 3-D spaces an ageless quality. Although the geometry is all straight edges there is a softness to the lines of these shadow boxes.
The work “R69-33” from 1969 has a rather complex pattern made up of trapezoidal surfaces. They are positioned into rows with horizontal axes of symmetry. The longer side of each trapezoid is closest to the viewer. This work offers a dramatic example of Schoonhoven’s use of shadows.
“Diagonalen” from 1967 is one of my favorite pieces in the show. The grid format is intact but by bisecting each grid square on alternating diagonals the artist has created a lattice of right triangles. One of the most exciting elements of Schoonhoven’s wall sculptures is that they change depending on the angle from which you see the art. As the viewer moves around the gallery the shadows are changing.
All pictures courtesy of the gallery.
The huge installation construction “Moun Room” by Housago is currently on display at the Hauser and Wirth Gallery on 18th street in Manhattan. The plaster and iron re-bar structure is actually three rooms – one inside the other – like nesting dolls. There are circular and arched openings so the viewer can see into the layers of the structure from the outside, as well as walk into the construction.
The artists choice of materials as well as his building techniques create a contrast from the rough exterior where the support elements are visible to the smoothness of the interior plaster walls. It was snowy day in Manhattan on the afternoon that I visited the gallery and the interior corridors almost seemed to glow liked packed snow. There is definitely a spiritual element to the experience.
The architecture of this work is very much invested in the geometry of circles. Houseago explores circles as both positive and negative space. Sets of consecutive circles, and circles divided by arcs and chords are also featured throughout the installation.
Houseago uses the same geometric principles found in modernist paintings since the middle of the 20th century. The scale, materials and textures of “Moun House” offer a fresh perspective to the circular theme.
All pictures courtesy of the gallery and the artist.