The Shortest Distance and Defying Logic
I attended The Annual at Chicago Artists Coalition for my ProSeminar class this past month, just one of the numerous galleries in Chicago that I'm required to attend. It's a great way to see the city and experience the various types of local cultural institutions Chicago has to offer. The exhibition at the Annual this month,The Shortest Distance Between Two Points , was curated by Caroline Picard and her curator intent was quite thought provoking and definitely challenged one's traditional perspective of the world. The shortest distance between two points is obviously a line but these artists defy this logic and examine what if the shortest distance is a curve, etc?
Picard's curator's intent takes an approach from a mathematical analysis in which she questions our learned logic of reality that is based in the core beliefs of geometry. "Euclidean Geometry is based on the precept that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. An elegant and comprehensive geometry unfolds with that supposition in mind, a geometry whose logic yields other shapes and relationships, surfacing by way of conclusion in material architectures, cities, and regulatory bureaucracies that society navigates daily as a matter of course. Implicit in this inherited approach, however, is the premise that space itself is stable, flat, and consistent. What if we propose that space itself is curved? For a plane crossing from one part of the world to another, for instance, the arc is its most direct route. If space bends, an entirely other logic presents itself, realizing an alternate field of potential. "The Shortest Distance Between Two Points" explores the relationship between logic, geometry, and the social actions that unfold, react, or resist therein." -Caroline Picard. As I looked around at the artworks in the gallery, I kept her curatorial intent in mind as each artist unveiled his or her idea on the theme of defying the certain types of logic that we have all been preprogrammed with.
The whole exhibit presented a carefully threaded dialogue between all artworks, and the two that stood out most to me were Untitled (S.R. Crown Hall) by Assaf Evron (above) and Rainbow Boxes Found Me Again by Candida Alvarez (below). Each piece in the collection examines logic either through material, architecture, or social and political content. While I would like to go into the detail of each piece and artist, I wanted to focus this post on on how the theme of this exhibition connected with me and my own work. I was ecstatic to see an exhibition that connected so well to a piece I did back in high school, and to find artists who perceive the world as you do is a comforting feeling.
Mathematics and Science were never my strongest subjects in high school, and there was a point where I almost failed chemistry. Frustrated and feeling defeated, I found my solace in art and the freedom it gave me to explore ideas and concepts that defied logic. And as logical of a person I can be in my day to day life, there was an inviting power to break free of the constant need to use logic to survive in a volatile world full of people who made decisions relying on their emotions. Sounds a little contradictory, but what I love most about art is the space it provides to be free of logical thinking, a place where "there is no wrong answer."
As I was on the verge of failing chemistry, (I passed with a C, and mind you I am proud of that C because I worked my butt off for it!), there was one concept that struck my curiosity and encouraged me to make one of my most abstract pieces. A student in class asked the teacher, "how did they discover the atom is a circle?" to which she explained in further detail about how the spherical shape of atoms was discovered by the use of laser beams that were shot around the particle to determine its shape. (I'm sure there's a lot more to this information and it has possibly changed since then, but lets focus on how I interpreted her answer.) There's a crucial skill we learn in drawing classes in art school, and that's how to draw from negative space. The object you're drawing isn't drawn from its own lines and forms, but rather the shapes surrounding it. The object's existence therefore, is constructed and perceived only through the reality of negative space.
Anatomy of an Atom is a piece I did out of frustration while struggling to pass chemistry, it is a piece that looks deeper into the logic and questions we have about our very existence and the truth of our preconceived notions. How are we to know the true shape of the atom and if it is really circular? How are we so sure of the knowledge we already possess about our world? Made from oil pastels, this piece merges the circular shapes that are, if you look closely, imperfect as they intersect each other, and make incomplete circles. The merging shapes create more colorful spaces that bring a harmonious balance to the painting as a whole. The imperfect circles destabilize our perception of what we actually see versus what our brain has interpreted as a circle, or what is already indefinitely known to us as "circular". Notion of light also plays a critical role in the almost white borders of each shape, questioning the colors that makeup white light, and how we perceive them. The very existence of our world is formulated by light, by the negative space which defines positive space, and by what authoritative figures have told us. Our brain is designed to follow patterns and overlook what our eyes actually see.
This piece can carry on an endless conversation about how we often overlook the negative spaces in the reality of our positive or sure knowledge, among other ideas. I attempted this piece with oil pastels because there is something so childlike about this medium, something so innocent about the way a child approaches the world in trying to make sense of it. But most importantly because of the childlike way in which one is free, not yet fully formulated into adulthood, and not obligated to be held accountable to defy logic.