Klaus von Nichtssagend is excited to present a show of works by artists and mathematicians creating a conversation between their respective creative fields. The show consists primarily of works on paper – the artists’ works framed on the walls, the mathematicians’ notes presented horizontally on a table. This dual presentation alludes to the differences in the “function” of the work, and to the ways in which artists and mathematicians use visual languages to their own ends.
In the field of topology, mathematicians’ sketches can be simple and doodle-like comprising, for example, a tubular form bent in a U shape with colorful lines intersecting. These drawings guide a math practice that is inextricable from thinking about shape and form, and is similar to the process artists go through when creating abstract art. Without knowing art or math, one could mistake a mathematician’s notes for an artist’s sketchbook – or vice versa. The two fields are considered separate today — housed in discrete rooms of schools and far flung buildings at universities. But do these two fields share more than we realize?
Vera Molnár has created work by writing computer algorithms to draw on a plotter; she would, at times, tweak the program creating multiple iterations of her drawings. Richard Evan Schwartz, working in geometry and dynamical systems, writes computer programs which help him discover new mathematical phenomena. The programs display their “thinking” in colorful geometric compositions. Howardena Pindell has recently produced work at the handmade paper studio, Dieu Donné. She alludes to geometric space by placing numbered circular disks inside a gridded shape.
Sculptor John Newman works with forms synthesizing ideas of the body and geometry. He often sketches throughout his process, drawing the piece before, during, and after the creation of a sculpture. Two topologists studying low dimensional manifolds, David Gabai and Maggie Miller, draw extensively in their notes, filling entire pages with roughly drawn sketches. They draw to discover new mathematical truths. Often setting out to prove a particular conjectural theorem. Their pictures may lead to other mathematical results. The proofs of their theorems are written in more formal mathematical prose, often illustrated to help the reader capture their ideas. Also studying low dimensional manifolds, Lei Chen’s note pages include equations interspersed with line drawings. Artist Melvin Way has formed his own language using mathematical symbols and formulas. His drawn notes are on small pieces of paper that he carries with him daily before releasing them when they are ready to be seen by an audience.