Originating from the Greek word arithmos, which means number, an algorithm is defined as a “procedure for solving a mathematical problem in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation or a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem, or accomplishing some end by a computer.” New York based artist Peter Gregorio investigates these ideas in a new series of work on view in the exhibition 11.11 at E.TAY Gallery. His paintings, prints, and installation work probe science, specifically cosmology to arrive at compelling discussions about the relationship between science, nature, and art, the mathematical structures that design our physical world, and what lies beyond the borders of our universe.
One of the first works in the gallery is the monumental painting Binary Opposition, which measures 84 x 84 ft. Gregorio used a binary code of 0 and 1 as the content and input it in a fixed perimeter – or the painting’s frame. The interplay between content and fixed space produced a striking visual pattern comparable to Op Art. A process driven artist, Gregorio created the work by first painting 13 layers of white gesso on the canvas. He then applied number stickers, arranging them in the binary code. Lastly, he applied a layer of black paint and pulled the stickers off to reveal the white number below.
Additional works that rely heavily on scientific theory to produce imagery are Sierpinski Carpet Fractal [Power of 4] and Multiverse Equation [Anthony Aguirre]. Unlike the rest of the works in the show, Seirpinski Carpet Fractal is positioned at a 90-degree angle to the wall and juts out into the gallery space. It presents a plane fractal, first described by Polish mathematician Waclaw Sierpinski in 1916, which has been printed on canvas. Based on the simple square, it can be divided into a pattern that repeats infinitely. Gregorio’s version could easily pass off as a modern textile. Multiverse Equation displays an equation from a recent paper by theoretical cosmologist Anthony Aguirre, who is also the artist’s friend, discussing an inflationary theory about multiple universes. Mathematic equations have a lyrical quality similar to written languages that use characters such as Arabic and Chinese. Set against the stark black background, the equation is expressed in crisp white letters and symbols. The impression is beautiful and elegant, yet there is a sense that what we are looking at represents something greater and more powerful.
Gregorio has also created work that makes a more literal reference to our physical world. The Calabi-Yau Space series presents the artist’s own photographs taken near his Brooklyn studio and during world travels, which have been printed on aluminum. A second layer of matte photo has been applied to the original layer in kinetic patterns making the surface appear fractured. Here, the Geometries of M.C. Escher, an artist who was very inspired by mathematics, and Synthetic Cubism come to mind. There is a feeling that that these works are reflecting on the fact that despite technology claims of keeping us “connected,” our sense of self and place in the world have actually become more fragmented and detached than ever.
A shift in process occurs in the NYC Subway Walls, 2 States, 2 Medium series. Photographs of familiar underground scenes such as graffiti on a gritty tile wall, a link fence, and signs are printed on linen canvas. Using the original photograph, Gregorio created a stencil of a pattern, which he then hand painted on the surface. While the layers are derived from the same origin, they are, as the title suggests, defined as 2 different states using 2 different mediums.
For these latest works, Gregorio consulted theoretical cosmologist Max Tegmark’s book Our Mathematical Universe, which explores how our “physical reality is a mathematical structure.” It is not surprising that Gregorio also employs video in his practice – he deals with concepts and theories best suited for a multi-media platform. Sticking with 2-dimensional mediums for this particular presentation, however, was a smart move. Because we as viewers are granted opportunity to meditate on the scientifically derived imagery to the point where we begin to see these patterns and structures as poetic gestures on human existence in the world, the universe and beyond.
11:11 is on view at E.TAY Gallery through December 17, 2016.