Mathematics and Art Merge in New BCMA Exhibit

Dorothea Rockburne

Dorothea Rockburne

The deeply saturated and highly energetic colors of Dorothea Rockburne’s paintings and drawings seem to send vibrations through the gallery. At the end of a long grey winter, The Gift of Knowing: The Art of Dorothea Rockburne is a great place to recharge.

Rockburne is an abstract artist who bases her work on mathematical facts and geometric proportions. As a student at Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina, she undertook morning walks with the mathematician Max Dehn—a close friend of Albert Einstein—who taught her “mathematics for artists through nature.” Since then she has dedicated herself to expressing the beauty of mathematical concepts in her art. In her most recent work, Rockburne takes cues from the ongoing exploration of outer space, inventing a visual vocabulary that accounts for and might in turn stimulate advanced thinking about the universe.

Geometry of Stardust: Curvature, 2009-­‐2010 by Dorothea Rockburne. Lascaux Perlacryl and Aquacryl paint, Golden High Load Titanium white, and gold leaf on Strathmore 140 lb cold press watercolor paper © 2015 Dorothea Rockburne / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Geometry of Stardust: Curvature, 2009-­‐2010 by Dorothea Rockburne. Lascaux Perlacryl and Aquacryl paint, Golden High Load Titanium white, and gold leaf on Strathmore 140 lb cold press watercolor paper © 2015 Dorothea Rockburne / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bowdoin professor of mathematics Jennifer Taback initiated and helped to develop the exhibition at the BCMA. Rockburne is appreciative of Bowdoin’s commitment to understanding the mathematical underpinnings of her art. Having previously exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and many other distinguished national and international venues, she recently commented, “In some way this is one of the most important exhibitions I’ve ever done. That is because Bowdoin recognizes the solid math connection that comprises the essence of my work. This and the fact that in a way it is addressed to Bowdoin’s students.”

It is only fitting that the BCMA opened the exhibition with a festive gathering on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53, the date that represents the first ten digits of the mathematical constant PI. On April 20th, Rockburne will visit Bowdoin to deliver the annual Santagata lecture. The following day on April 21st, she and Dave Peifer, a professor of mathematics at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, will conduct a gallery conversation and special tour of the exhibition at 4:30pm.

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