Daisy McGowan, executive director of UCCS’ Galleries of Contemporary Art, promises that GOCA curates its exhibits for the general public, not specialists. So even though the premise of Color Theory, GOCA’s newest exhibit, may be based on mathematical theory and science, its appeal is not only intellectual, but sensual. “First and foremost, it is a visually stunning exhibition that will really, you know, pull you in and have a lot to offer, without knowing the depth of the mathematical formulas,” McGowan says. But she adds that she hopes it opens viewers’ eyes to the kinship between math and art, between aesthetic beauty and the so-called hard sciences.
Each of the three Colorado-based artists featured in the exhibition, Clark Richert, Camila Friedman-Gerlicz and Andrew Huffman, had their own such awakening as they embarked on their artistic journeys. Clark Richert, a regionally and nationally influential artist and emeritus faculty with the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, grew up in a family of scientists and believed he would be a scientist as well. But McGowan says Richert’s experiences with Abstract Impressionism — plus inspiration from architect Buckminster Fuller and artist Mark Rothko — changed his outlook. Now he fuses the natural world with mathematics and color theory. “He’s really interested in symmetry and the quasi-crystal patterns that are found in nature,” McGowan says, “and then theoretical mathematics. And some of those theories are of his own making.”
GOCA presents a selection of his paintings and sculptures, as two retrospective exhibits of his work open: one at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and one at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.
Another featured artist, Camila Friedman-Gerlicz, is also an accomplished mathematician in her own right. She has a master’s degree in theoretical mathematics, but didn’t want to spend her career in front of a blackboard. “So she went back to another interest of hers — ceramics — and going back to grad school for visual art, found an interest in fusing those two sides of her brain, so to speak,” McGowan says. Friedman-Gerlicz’s sculptural works all start with a mathematical formula — expressed both in color and structure. By introducing measured changes to those formulas, she creates a structure that is all at once planned and intuitive, and makes these formulas tangible for viewers.
The final artist featured in Color Theory, Andrew Huffman, considers his work to be more improvisational, even likening it to jazz. Even so, there are undeniable patterns in the way his works come together, and all are based on geometric forms. McGowan says he uses air and light as their own mediums, which will be evident in the installation piece he has designed specifically to complement the architecture of the Ent Center: Stair Projection. “It stair-steps down these blocks of string color,” McGowan says, “and as you move across it, it changes and morphs almost like a moiré pattern.”
If you’d like these experts to help explain the mathematical and scientific inspiration behind what they do, join GOCA for a gallery chat and reception on June 15.