Maurits Cornelis Escher – was born in Leeuwarden, Holdan in 1898 and one of the most famous graphic designers to ever live. M.C. Escher worked primary in lithographs, woodcuts, and drawings. You may not even realize you are familiar with his artwork, but its unlikely you’ve never cracked open a math textbook and not found an image rendered by this artist.
Originally M.C. Escher went to school to be an architecture, put poor grades and a fondness for drawing steered him elsewhere. Ironically he received no education in geometry beyond high school. M.C. Escher instead became graphic designer. In 1920 M.C. Escher meet Samuel Jesserum de Mesquita, a graphics arts instructor. Due to this chance meeting M.C. Escher found his love for the graphic arts. He would illustrate books, design stamps, and other related activities. This work went largely unnoticed until the 1950′s. In 1956 an exhibition of his work gave him a world-wide reputation. Among the greatest admires drawn in were mathematicians. This was due tot he fact that M.C. Escher made extraordinary visual representations of mathematical concepts.
As he grew in his work M.C. Escher drew inspiration from a range of complex mathematical concepts. He gained his knowledge through books and was particularly interested in the structures of a plane and projective geometry. In particular M.C. Escher is noted for taking these concepts and creating paradoxes and impossible structures/images. M.C. Escher masterfully played with both the geometry behind space and the logic in which we interpret it. Inspiration was also drawn form Moorish art (featured on the right), a type of Muslim art, due to its use of elaborate patterns and use of geometry. This exposure he largely gained through his travels in the Mediterranean
There are several concepts M.C. Escher used in his artwork
Tessellations – This has to due with the regular divisions of a plane. In short its a shape that is repeated over and over across a surface that leaves no gaps and do not overlap. Much of M.C. Escher in these was taken from Muslim art. There are 3 basic types of Tessellations – reflections, translations and rotations. These can be done with a variety of shapes and even combination of shapes.
Platonic Solids – These are polyhedra (regular solids) that have exactly the same polygonal faces. Their are only a few.
Tetrahedron – 4 triangular faces
Cube – 6 square faces
Octahedron – Eight triangular faces
Dodecahedron – 12 pentagonal faces
Icosahedron – 20 triangular faces
M.C. Escher loved to play with these types of geometric forms. Often he liked to intersect these shapes by playing with lines of symmetry. He also loved to make these shapes intersect.
Stellate – This technique that M.C. Escher often employed, was taking a Polyhedra and replacing each of the faces with a pyramid. (see image to the right)
However the thing that made these images interesting wasn’t just drawing them, but his additions to the drawing that challenge our perception of the world.
The Shape of Space -M.C. Escher also loved to play with the shape of space and how that changes our perceptions. The easy of these to grasp is the visual representation of infinity. He often made art that suggested that the shapes and images continued endlessly. For example if you look at the images of the ants on what is coined “The Mobius Strip,” you’ll eventually notice that the ants are all walking on the same side of said strip. In another words, they could walk on continuously, AKA infinity.
In more complex versions of this idea M.C. Escher would play with ideas such as singularity. Look at the two images provided below. The grid is part of the mystery behind the drawing. The circle is where the image can not be reconciled – or the fabric of space no longer holds together.
Logic of Space – one of M.C. Escher’s most well know techniques is playing with our perception of space itself. Many of M.C. Escher’s drawings present us with impossible spaces or paradoxes. He does this in a few ways.
-The first technique M.C. Escher employes, is toying with the way light and shadow inform our perception of space. The image Cute with Ribbons – look closely. This is not a possible object. This is done by specifically toying with how light plays on concave and convex surfaces.
-The second technique M.C. Escher uses is creating unusual vanishing points and then using those vanishing points to force the composition to adhere the twists in perception they introduce. Look closely at this famous image by M.C. Escher. One of the things he did was introduce vanish points to challenge your perception of the space.
-The third method relied on how our brain’s our wired to make sense of what we see. In art the term Gestalt is used to describe how our brains “fill in the blanks” when parts are left out of an image. If one looks closely at Waterfall (image provided) you’ll notice that this structure could not possible exist.
Self-References – Another technique used by M.C. Escher are tricks that only the human eye can interpret. Better than to explain it I will provide a few examples of this technique that again plays with our perception of our world.
http://www.mathacademy.com – Platonic Realms Mini Text
Junk Art – This art movement became “official” in the mid-1950’s. This was around the same time as Pop and Funk art, proving it is most durable of the 3 movements. Technically this art movement is alive and well today and showing no signs of slowing down.
Art that fits this movement is purposefully made from what is considered junk and repurposed to give it a new value. This is often seen as a comment on the wastefulness of society or the inherit subjectivity of value. The materials of this movement are often also deliberately ugly and only become works of art as a whole.
This movement is also associated with ideas associated with consumerism and waste. Artist working in this vein will often use the materials in a juxtaposition commenting on the wastefulness of society. An example of this use of juxtaposition and recontextualization would be making a fish out of lures, flaying knives, and other nautical items.
Assemblage Art – a 3-D artistic process involving putting together found objects to make works of art. This art form was invented by Pablo Picasso and got its name in the 1950’s threw the artwork of Jean Dubuffet. The goal of this process is to recontextualize the objects into a new work of art.
Pop Art – An art movement that occurred in the 1950’s that focused on consumerism and popular culture. This movement popularized the exploration of wastefulness in society and the idea of challenging the concept of what art is.
Recontextualization – to place in a different context
Louise Nevelson – Born Leah Berliawsky, Nevelson was an assemblage, abstract expressionist, and minimalist artist that was born on September 23, 1899 in Kiev, Russia. Her father immigrated to the United States, leaving his family alone. Louise Nevelson was so traumatized that she stopped talking for six months. In 1905 her father settled in Rockland, Maine and set for the rest of the family. This move was brought on by the persecution of the Jewish community by the Tsarist Russians. She changed her name in 1920 and married Charles Nevelson. After 11 years they divorced due to her discontent with the middle-class life style. Louise Nevelson studied cubist art in Munich, Germany for six months before the Nazis closed her art studies school. Her first public showing was in 1933; two years later her art work was part of an exhibit in the Brooklyn Museum. During this time Nevelson was what is often referred to as a “starving artist.” In 1967 an art show in Whitney Museum marked a turning point in her career. During her career she worked with, learned from, or knew artists such as Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Nevelson was known for her extravagant personality style and feminist ideals. This included dressing in long dresses, false eyelashes, and other strange fashion statements.
Louise Nevelson was known for using wooden (the most frequent material), plexiglass, aluminum, enamel, steel and bronze items group together and assembled in a cubist fashion painted in neutral monochromatic colors. She avoided typical carpentry to make her works of art. Her process was purely additive. Nevelson stacked objects, avoiding carving, and nailed them together.
Gabriel Dishaw – A junk artist born in Michigan; known for making junk sculptures since the mid 1990’s. His favorite objects of use are disassembled objects, such as computers, typewriters, and similar devices.
Leo Sewell – Leo Sewell is an assemblage artist from Philadelphia that made good use of the fact he grew up near a dump. Despite never receiving formal training, Leo Sewell shows a natural sense for putting together disparate objects into works of art. He has used people’s trash, garbage, and refuse for over 50 years to create over 4,000 imaginative creations that have even been as large as a 40 foot torch. Leo Sewell favors plastic, metal and wood. No matter how weird or useless the object seems Leo Sewell can use it as a part of a beautiful work of art. He fixes these materials together using a combination of nails, bolts, screwing, and welding.
Balance: The sense that a picture is visually balanced.
Symmetrical: Both sides (top and bottom, right and left, etc) of the picture are the same.
Radial: A picture balanced around a central point and that can be rotated 3 or more times and still look the same. (example to the left)
Asymmetrical Balance: A picture that is visually balanced but different on each side.
Rhythm: Similar elements or patterns that repeat (PRRAF)
Regular: A pattern that is much like a beat in music. Its continuous and always the same.
Alternating: A pattern that switches back and forth like a zig zag or a wavy line.
Progressive: A pattern type that slowing changes in shape, size or another element of art.
Random: A pattern that uses a motif or an element that ties a group of randomly organized shapes together.
Flowing: A pattern type that uses several similar marks to create a general sense. Water often has flowing rhythms. (Image to the left)
Emphasis: The place your eye is drawn to first in a picture
Point of Emphasis: A technique for emphasis that uses directional forces to “point” to a central location.
Framing: The technique for emphasis that “frames” the object or area of emphasis with some element of art.
Grouping: Putting several similar shapes or other elements close together creating emphasis
Contrast: Using an element that is different then the rest of the piece to create emphasis.
Size: Creating emphasis by making the area of emphasis the largest thing in the piece.
Clarity/Detail: A type of emphasis that uses greater detail in the areas where the point of emphasis is. The image to the right shows this because the girl has the most detail, while the background is fussy.
Movement: The sense of motion or the feel that your eye is carried around the picture, visually. This can be implied, directional (pointing) or real.
Contrast: Elements or Principles in a picture that contrast with one another. Such as white and black, rough and smooth, or bright and dull.
Harmony: Using similar elements and principles in such a way that everything in a picture “feels” like it belongs. This can be done with similar elements such as soft textures.