The largest of all of the Art Fairs in New York City last week was the Armory Show that was on two huge piers (92 and 94) on the Hudson river. A wide range of work was exhibited, I have just chosen a sampling of more recent work with Mathematical themes.
I was still in line to check my coat when I spotted Bernar Venet’s steel sculptures across the aisle. The title of the work above, “11 Acute Unequal Angles”, is a perfect description of the geometric theme of the work. It is always exciting to see work that so directly embraces the mathematics.
This next work, by Shannon Bool, is a large- scale oil and batik on silk. The fabric is slightly transparent and backed with a mirror which creates an interesting repetition of the design, as well as a slight ghost of the reflection of the viewer. Through the use of grids and diagonals, there is a reference to the geometry of architecture.
This eight foot tall painted plywood column by Brandon Lattu consists of 12 stacked prisms. Each prism has a regular polygon as its base. The top form has is triangular, the second is square. The third one has a pentagonal base, and so on. Each subsequent prism has bases with one extra side. The prisms are stacked in such a way that a vertex from each prism lines up to create a vertical line.
When you walk around the structure you can see the different angles. This work is a great visual example of a numeric progression in terms of the number of sides in each section. It also compares the different angles found in regular polygons.
Jim Iserman’s acrylic painting is a pulsating homage to hexagons. This work is made like a tiling. Each hexagon is created using three rhombi. By situating the yellow bands to meet at the center, Iserman creates a Y-pattern. The forms take on the presence of cubes jumping off the surface.
The Armory show is an overwhelming experience. It takes hours to even get a superficial overview. There were a myriad of other works of art that relate to mathematics at this venue. It was difficult to chose just a few.
For the past month I have been traveling throughout the USA and one of the most interesting destinations has been Marfa, Texas. This small West Texas town is a haven for Minimal and Conceptual Art. The gallery Exhibitions 2d has a lot of mathematically art work on display. Two artists represented by the gallery – Gloria Graham and John Robert Craft – were of particular interest.
Graham’s geometric paintings are based on the patterns found in the atomic structures of natural elements. “NaCl H2O Salt Water” features two crystal-like forms, both regular hexagons. The hexagon on the left is divided into three congruent rhumbi. The hexagon on the right is divided into six equilateral triangles. The addition of the three extra line segments to divide the rhumbi into triangles changes the hexagon dramatically. The symmetry goes from order 3 rotational symmetry to order 6. The perception of the possible 3-D form goes from a cube to a faceted diamond shape with 6 facets on top. Graham’s painting process for this work involves a layer of kaolin (a clay-like mineral) applied to canvas stretched over wood. The lines are drawn into this base. Through the drying process tiny cracks in the surface have formed. This gives the work a complex physicality that alludes to the natural environmental inspiration for the painting.
Craft’s cast iron sculptures are related to his life as a Texas rancher. They are solid and heavy, and have a rustic patina. Their rough physicality is juxtaposed to their intricate geometric forms. This work is made up of 60 basic elements stacked into a 4 by 5 by 3 rectangular solid. Each of the elements is a type of double cruciform with a pyramid set on each of the six ends. This forms negative spaces with 16-sided regular polygon shaped windows. Craft’s work presents complex 3-D repetitive tiling-like formations, while retaining the physical realities of the artist’s ranch experience.
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Since its inception Aldrich has been committed to the collection and display of modern art, including some of the most important work in the areas of Minimalism, Conceptual, and Geometric art. The founder Larry Aldrich acquired the work of Eva Hess, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and many others. For the 50th anniversary a two part exhibition has been installed in the galleries over the past year. The curators have created a connection between the historical artwork from the early years of the museum to contemporary art. Artists were asked to respond to the work from the 1960’s and 1970’s.
David Scanavino’s site-specific room-sized installation “Imperial Texture” is the artist’s dialog with the work of Richard Artschwager. Artschwager is well known for his use of formica to make geometric forms that have the same shape as everyday items but can not actually be used as such. His sculpture “Pyramid Object” from 1967 was displayed near Scanavino’s installation.
“Imperial Texture” consists of a grid of 1 by 1 foot square linoleum tiles that have been installed into the gallery at an angle so that they come off the floor and climb the walls. The tiling pattern was developed using computer software to make a digital model. This fact alone would make this a mathematically interesting piece. But what I find mathematically inspirational about this environment is the impact of a 2-D grid being retrofit into the 3-D rectangular box. The traditional gallery space has a multicolored seemingly random patterned floor, that has been shifted leaving part of the floor uncovered. Scanavino’s decision to place the grid at an angle has created series of right triangles with their hypotenuses running along the lines where the walls meet the floors. “Imperial Texture” gives the museum visitor an altered sense of space. The linoleum floor we are accustomed to seeing on the floors of schools, stores and other industrial and institutional settings has shifted out of it’s practical floor covering purpose.