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Mathematics Via Sculpture

People who live on the West Coast are sometimes out of luck (or access). This past summer, a signiticant art exhibition was available in New York City....with mathematics a primary element.


The featured artist was Mel Bochner, with the exhibit based on eighteen of his pieces from his early career as a minimalist in the 1960s and 1970s. This is the period where Bochner seemed to use sculpture as a means for exploring simple mathematical ideas.

Bochner's work Five by Four (1972) shows different grouping arrangements of twenty stones...just as an elementary student would do when mastering multiplication and number concepts:


Bochner's work Meditation on the Theorem of Pythagoras (1972) is self-explanatory.

Bochner's work Triangular and Square Numbers (1972) connects the two number representations using a wall corner. One reviewer stated that "the product is so understated takes on a light-hearted air"...not sure what that means?

The entire show is perhaps best described by Bochner's own words: “Paradoxically, without the object there would be no idea, but without the idea there would be no object.” In a sense, his scupltures reveal what mathematics teachers try to reveal to their students...the visual reality of mathematics.

Unfortunately, the Bochner exhibit closed on June 29th, with no note of its installation elsewhere (or nearer to the West Coast). If you want to know more about him and his work, the internet is a good resourec to start your search. I might also recommend one of his books: Number and Shape, 1976....though others are interesting as well.

Source: Adapted from "Art Review," New York Times, May 24, 2013.