Kat Murrell

Exploring the boundaries of art and science at MIAD

By - Jan 21st, 2011 03:51 pm
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The Frederick Layton Gallery bends in a boxy-U shape on the lower level of MIAD. Crossing from the portion where Tiny: Art from Microscopes at UW-Madison is on display to Visual Analogies and Inquiries: The Work of Michiko Itatani and Birgitta Weimer is like seeing relatives of these colorful, amorphous shapes burst forth in a big way.

Weimer and Itatani take biological forms as references points, but while the organic nature of line and shape inform the syntax, the physicality of their materials contribute no less to the end result.

“Morphogenesis” Birgitta Weimer. Perspex and vinyl cord.

Weimer, of Königswinter, Germany, employs rubber, plastic, steel, and variations on industrial materials with a sense of concentrated focus. In Circulation, red tubing of a deeply saturated hue — something between red licorice and highly oxygenated blood — winds around and upon itself. There are moments of pause as disparate strands meet up and reorganize through seven small, black circular hubs, catching a breath before going on their unruly way. The barely-contained red lines add life and energy; the somber black centers add logic and control.

As both a complement and a foil, Itatani, who is based in Chicago, has a similarly organic bent but with an overtly boundless sense of play. Boundless, literally. Her multi-part canvases spill from one place to another.

Untitled (from Fragments of Change Series) arcs from floor to ceiling as dozens of discrete elements; irregularly shaped canvases of varying sizes fit together like a painting-mosaic. Other works by Itatani are like super-collages, in which canvases are attached to each other’s surfaces, like ideas that can’t bear to part with their progenitor.

 

The underlying allusions to the mysterious interlace of natural systems give pause for reflection, but on the surface, the works in this exhibition glisten with texture, color, and pattern. The exhibition of artists and works in the entire Layton Gallery, collectively titled Exploring the Boundaries Between Art and Science, suggest that those distinctions are highly permeable and defined by matters of semantics. And after all the free-flowing ambiguity, there is a surprising counterpoint just outside.

Like the sorbet to finish a sumptuous meal, photographs of villas designed by the great Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio are on view outside the gallery. This loan of works reveals the beauty of order and harmony, so important to Renaissance taste and culture in Italy. Like a perfectly struck chord, his architectural proportions and organization reflect an immutable sense of rightness.

Palladio works with our aspirations for orderliness and beauty achieved through mathematical precision, while the works in the Layton Gallery ponder beauty revealed in the mystery of biology and science.

Visual Analogies and Inquiries: The Work of Michiko Itatani and Birgitta Weimer opens for public viewing on Gallery Night, Jan. 21, and remains on view through March 5, 2011 at MIAD. For more information, click here.

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