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Queens Chronicle

The blend of art and mathematics

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Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 10:30 am

Roughly four years ago Manhattan-based art curator Ombretta Agro Andruff began putting together an exhibit about the connection between mathematics and art. All her hard work has finally come to fruition at the Dorsky Gallery, a nonprofit gallery in Long Island City, in the show entitled “(Un)Folding Patterns.”

The show took longer than most of her currating projects because she wanted to educate her admittedly “nonmathematical brain” on the backbone of many of her artists’ pieces.

She read dense works on the connection between art, physics and math. She interviewed the artists several times and had each explain the behind the scenes of their works. However, even though Andruff spent several years of exploration, the viewer is not expected to do so.

“It is important to underline how the viewer’s aesthetic appreciation of the works does not require an understanding of mathematical principles,” she wrote in her essay, which accompanies the show. “However, as with all art, a deeper knowledge leads to deeper appreciation. So it is hoped that the visitor will spend enough time to study and enjoy each piece.”

Her journey started after watching “Between the Folds,” a documentary about modern origami. The film featured a father-son genius team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Erik and Martin Demaine.

The Demaines’ three sculptures twist and turn in the middle of the gallery like lime green sea plants. The viewer is hit with the complexity of the sculptures, how the circles bend and give way to each. However, probably few understand the science of geometric folding algorithms that created the artwork.

Back in Massachusetts the professors are creating electrically charged paper that will fold its self into these origami shapes. (Join the doctors at the gallery for an artists’ talk,“Folding Paper: Visual Art Meets Mathematics,” on July 21 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.)

Behind these sculptures hangs a painting that from afar looks like “garbles of color,” said Andruff.

Brooklyn-based artist Kysa Johnson’s brightly colored lines swirl and dip on the white canvas. On closer examination the viewer sees tiny annotations.

What is doing in art? Well, actually these eye catching patterns depict atomic decay. The piece from 2003 is one of 11 drawings depicting the microscopic movement within all things.

Another installation in the exhibit is Jane Philbrick’s “Floating Sculpture, ‘09.” At a glance the pink balls set against a black background appear as a minimalist painting at its ideal.

Then the viewer looks behind and around each ball, and realizes it floats magically, but really magnetically, a few inches above the base.

Philbrick, an artist in residence at MIT, collaborated with scientists, mathematicians and sound engineers to create the 12-floating-ball sculpture using magnets.

The installation is meant to be the future of Marta Pan’s 1961 “Sculpture Flottante.” Pan’s sculpture in Sweden is composed of two spherical halves. One floats in a pool of water. The other half balances on a pointed tip in the middle of the floating half.

MIT mathematicians used the curvature of Pan’s piece to birth Philbrick's spherical sculpture. A looping, fizzy buzz of a sound tape that fades in an out of intensity also accompanies the artwork.

Both Johnson and Philbrick will host a panel discussion about their pieces on June 3 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the gallery.

‘(Un)Folding Patterns’

When: May 20-July 22, Thurs.-Mon. 11 a.m to 6 pm.

Where: Dorsky Gallery, 11-03 45 Ave., LIC

Tickets: Free

(718) 937-6317, dorsky.org

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • kazmandu posted at 9:20 pm on Fri, May 25, 2012.

    kazmandu Posts: 0

    You mentioned that the curator did much homework trying to understand the math part of this work, yet, they she did not expect the viewer to also learn the mathematical parts of the work? - If this is true then you are only advising the viewer to understand part of the work which is a disservice to the work itself - very unfortunate. [sad]