A handful of School of Art students gathered Tuesday afternoon in the School’s 353 Crown St. space to hear artist Math Bass discuss her experience curating art shows and creating mixed-media art with a distinct interdisciplinary approach.
Bass’s body of work features pieces in a variety of media, ranging from sculpture to performance art. During the lecture, she discussed her concept-driven approach to art-making and some of the major themes her work explores, such as abstract symbolism, the “physicalization” of body forms and the way that objects can become images and the “articulation of negative space.” The artist also described painting techniques employed in her pieces, such as the use of solid blocks of color, crowded compositions and recurring patterns, as well as several past exhibitions of her work, including an April 2015 show at MoMA PS1, a nonprofit exhibition space for experimental art in Queens, and an exhibit at Los Angeles’s Overduin & Co. gallery.
“Math Bass’ work may appear simple, with blocks of solid color in sharply delineated space. Her images are geometric, reminiscent of graphic design, but not static,” said history of art major Myles Garbarini ’17, who attended the talk. “Repetition and patterning activate the forms, evoking a surprising amount of movement. Bass uses geometric elements as symbols, as if they comprise a code for the viewer to decipher. Forms reduced to their essential lines and colors suggest real-world references that are much more complex.”
Bass explained that she has been working on her latest project, a collection of paintings entitled “Newz!”, for the past four years. Pieces within the series often juxtapose corporeal and architectural forms, combining compact compositions, repetition of particular shapes such as cigarettes with plumes of smoke and clearly defined boundaries. Installations of the works often include pieces executed in a variety of other media, such as sculpture and performance art.
The artist added that each iteration of a series informs her next crop of pieces, making her body of work a progressive evolution of ideas.
“I had an interest in using and repeating this really simple vocabulary of symbols that I generated,” Bass explained. “Some of them started out as discrete images, and others began to amass into illusions.”
Although frequently geometric, her works often incorporate recurring elements such as smoke and fog, natural phenomena that Bass said have intrigued her throughout her career.
In painting, Bass noted that she often uses smoke, because she thinks that it adds depth to a two-dimensional representation. In her performance art, Bass added that she often explores the omnipresence of fog, and humans’ experience of being powerless to control it, mentioning a piece she created a few years ago — “Dogs and Fog” — which featured 20 dogs and seven performers in a room filled with fog.
“There was a presence of dog that was just really invigorating,” Bass said of the piece.
Bass’ talk also highlighted several of her past exhibitions, including “Off the Clock,” a solo show at MoMA PS1 that featured a mix of new and old pieces, and “Lies Inside,” her first individual show in Los Angeles, in which she focused on the use of “sight lines” to allow for varying visual experiences based on where an observer is standing.
“You can’t look at something in the show without looking through somewhere else,” she said. “When you enter the room, your view of these images is obstructed by the gate, so either way you have the experience of being contained within or held outside.”
Lauren Britton ART ’17 said she found it interesting to hear Bass discuss her growth as an artist, adding that the screening of Bass’ short performance art clips was a highlight of the event.