Main galleries: June 6 through August 23, 2015
Coordinates draws upon MMoCA’s permanent collection to examine the use of number in modern and contemporary art. The word “coordinates” refers to a set of numbers that locates a point on a plane or in space. Numbers are for counting, measuring, labeling, coding, and theorizing on reality. Galileo, the father of modern physics, famously declared that “Nature is writ in number.” They have been critical to the symbolic languages of philosophy, religion, and the sciences that attempt to describe the underlying, often mystical, nature of reality. Numbers have also had a major place in the history of art. They have shaped proportional systems for rendering the human figure, architectural designs, and the world around us—both visible and invisible.
This tradition continues in modern and contemporary art, as evidenced in the works included in this exhibition by artists Alice Aycock, Jennifer Bartlett, John Cage, Al Held, Sol LeWitt, Donald Lipski, and Robert Mangold, among others. By incorporating grids, perspective systems, mappings, diagrams, and randomness, many artists continue to create works of art poeticized by numbers.
Coordinates was organized on the occasion of the eighth annual Public Humanities Conference sponsored by the Center for the Humanities in Madison, Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Humanities by the Numbers,” provides an entry point to discuss the variety of ways in which numbers have a place in the humanities.
Thursday, June 25 · 12:30–1:00 pm · Main Galleries Gallery Talk
David Griffeath on Mathematics and the Visual Arts
Drawing on selected works from Coordinates, David Griffeath will illustrate aspects of the history of mathematical influences on the visual arts, contrasting aesthetics of math and art, and the impact of recent directions in math and science on contemporary art.
David Griffeath is a retired mathematician who specialized in probability and complex spatial dynamics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, chairing the Department of Mathematics from 2002-2005. His research included the study of pattern formation in physical and social systems such as spontaneous spiral nucleation, snow crystal growth, and emergence of traffic jams.