Ringling College of Art and Design, 2002, Curated by John Sims and Kevin Dean

Mathematics has been our greatest tool in seeing the invisible, counting the infinite and understanding the unimaginable. Mathematics is not just about numbers, shapes and angles; it is also about the search for structures, connections (equivalences) and provable statements. Viewed as language, mathematics seeks to crystallize with grand clarity a narrative of the geometry of form and patterns. Viewed as conceptual technology, mathematical thinking has been an indispensable agent in the development of both modern science and philosophy. Viewed as conceptual art, mathematics both creates and discovers abstract structures and realities with its own strong aesthetic, proving to be a great ally in negotiating the beautiful complexities of abstraction and symbolic communication.

Although contemporary mythology may suggest otherwise, mathematics and art are profoundly connected. As cognitive parameters of human consciousness, mathematics and art speak to the human capacity to abstract, organize and ultimately see with the eye of the mind. This vision has navigated human civilization from a Dark Age to a Space Age, with rapid progression into the Cyber Age. The mathematics/art visualization exists in the gyrations of an analytical/creative process that characterizes the work of the mathematician/artist. In the visual mathematics-art matrix there is a great lesson in symmetry: visual mathematics manifests beauty, and aesthetics can manifest mathematical knowledge. It is in this space where the magic and genius of the human nervous system appears.

To celebrate the history and future of the interconnectedness between mathematics and art, we have created an exhibition that explores how contemporary mathematicians/artists transmit and incorporate mathematical ideas and thinking into their artistic process; how they use the physical tools of art to see and understand mathematical realities. While some of the artists in this exhibition are well known, most are mid-career and emerging artists who are working seriously with mathematical ideas, demonstrating that mathematical art is alive and flourishing.

With attention given to balance, diversity, and structure, this exhibition is organized into eight categories. While most of the work in this show fits nicely into the presented scheme, some works may intersect several areas. The categories are:

  1. Counting/Measurement
  2. Proportions
  3. Geometry
  4. Topology
  5. Algorithmic
  6. Modularity
  7. Symbolism
  8. Visual Mathematics

By John Sims