Geometry, one could say, wards off chaos.
Perhaps geometry organizes chaos, arranges it. But geometry does not obliterate chaos so much as attempt to make sense of it.
Geometry, I would argue, is not perfection, but rather, an investigation. As a definition, it "investigates the relations, properties, and measurements of solids, surfaces, lines, and angles; of magnitude." Yet when we describe something as “geometric,” we are insinuating that it is patterned evenly and equally distributed. We think of ornamental Islamic art, the arabesque, repeating motifs in tilework, equilateral sides, mathematically precise terms, etc. When I chose the theme New Geometries, I wanted to challenge artists and viewers to examine this mental concept, to see unprecedented relations between two objects, to notice the unfamiliar forms underlying familiar formations.
As of late, I've been inspired by two books about Japanese forms. One is called Katachi, a photo book by Takeji Iwamiya that focuses on the forms, symmetries, and materials found in ancient and everyday Japanese design. In the introduction, art critic Donald Richie writes:
"Most countries insist upon the geometrical, design subdues nature. In the Islamic countries, everything not geometrical is excluded; in Greece alone, geometry becomes an art, and the rightness of the Parthenon insists upon the archetypical rectangle in the heart of each of us. Japan insists that this same geometry of the heart be reached other means. We must observe nature. We must schematize it, then we must reconstruct it. One of the triumphs of Japanese perception is that the merely straight and the merely round are never enough—these two must exist by themselves in partial form, must be suggested or they must be combined."
This idea of reconfiguration, of achieving geometry through novel and perhaps surprising means, is at the heart of the New Geometries concept.
I stumbled across the other book, called Forms in Japan by Yuichiro Kojiro, at the house of Sandy Jacobs last week. After showing me an incredible book about the architecture of nomadic tents around the world, he pulled out this one—a big, red, tattered book whose subject is manifest in his own house; its form was inspired by a tree and was built, in part, around a tree trunk.
I was particularly intrigued by this page (below) in the book (pardon the shoddy photograph) that lists out different forms of unity, force, adaptation, and change—all abstract concepts—but then distills them into tangible forms and movements. These specific actions—among them: tying, binding, weaving, splitting, cutting—are the forms we use in all arts and crafts and design, I think. These are the forms of action underlying familiar aesthetic forms.
Three years ago, I visited Sammlung Hoffmann in Berlin, a private collection of contemporary art in the home of Erika and Rolf Hoffmann that is available to the public every Saturday. Erika began collecting art "for the inspiration and stimulation of living with it." Ever since, it's been a small dream of mine to host an art show in a similarly intimate space.
"The selection of works is installed in an associative manner. It is meant to offer a personal encounter with art that may impart a more lasting impression in this private setting than it would leave in, say, a museum ... The idea is to allow visitors a more immediate and emotional access to the works."
After I quit my job last September, I began to realize that it was up to me to make things happen. I couldn't rely on luck or charity. Instead: hard work and relentlessness in the face of failure. Frequent evaluations of priorities. Mustering courage even when a project seemed daunting or out of reach.
New Geometries is one project I've been working on for awhile now, which was based in a desire to bring a community of artists together, to make their art visible in an intimate setting, and to make the aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional forms of their work accessible to a wide audience. Over 20 artists are involved! I have no idea how this will all turn out, but come join in the experiment, if you're around in San Francisco this Saturday evening. I would love to have you. See you then.