There is certainly an intersection between mathematics and art. The two can play off each other, whether in the carefully calculated perspectival schemes of the Renaissance, or in the potential of artistic innovation to offer new ground for mathematical exploration. “Crinkle Morph: Three Stories in Eight Chapters,” Elif Erez’s ’15 senior exhibit in the Davenport Art Gallery, exists at that intersection, exploring the plastic nature of the grid in a novel way. The exhibit is simple: two walls each displaying three rows of rectangles or squares covered in wavelike patterns. On one side the rectangles of made of paper; on the other they are three-dimensional. The latter are the exhibit’s main focus, a total of 24 sculpted squares each splattered with a different color – red, blue, green. The designs themselves are angular and fractured, a cross between a street map and a pane of broken glass. Each of the three rows changes sequentially from left to right, showing the evolution of the initial design into an unexpected final form.
In her written accompaniment to the exhibit, Erez refers to each iteration as a “chapter,” and she explains her process chapter by chapter. Each begins as carved foam which is then cast in cement, scanned with a 3D scanner, and recarved into foam. This process is repeated four times, the initially sharp and detailed cutout slowly morphing into soft and blurred over the course of the eight panels. As the crevices are slowly smoothed into valleys by the process, a story develops, one that is at the core of Erez’s entire project. Her repetition of the process, and the gradual evolution of each initial design, suggests that each sequence could have gone on forever, like a mathematical formula approaching an asymptote.
The initial designs themselves are rather beautiful, calling to mind the icy remnants of the recent winter. But through the repeated process, these unique patterns become muted. I could not say that I like the final product more than the initial cast, but perhaps this was Erez’s intent, to show how initial clarity and crispness can erode over time.
The papers on the wall opposite the sculptures appear to be a 2D reimagining of the 3D project. Each row contains eight images, starting with a clear, geometric pattern that is slowly morphed and folded digitally until it resembles a warped version of its original self.
Although the concept of the project was interesting and original, I found myself unmoved. Surrounded only by bare walls, the exhibit’s predominantly monochromatic contents felt lacking. Perhaps I do not have the appropriate background to appreciate what Erez has accomplished: I understand math through discrete numbers, rather than the abstract sense on which she clearly draws.
However, the exhibit has its merits. As I stood in front of the sculptures, scrutinizing their meaning and considering their slow evolution, I tried to understand how the creator accomplished what she has and how she had envisioned such a balance of art and math. I had never thought of grids as anything other than static form.
If you happen to be dining in Davenport, I recommend this exhibit for a stretch of the legs and of the mind. You will not find objects of awe and wonderment, but rather food for thought. And then you can return to the dining hall for some real food.