Manipulating Math with Formula Morph

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Trying out Formula Morph in the Man Ray–Human Equations exhibition

Man Ray–Human Equations showcases Man Ray’s depictions of complicated mathematical objects that he first encountered in the 1930’s. The models served as educational tools for mathematical students; however, Man Ray was interested in how they looked more than the specific mathematical equations they represented. Because the equations are fairly complicated and dense, The Phillips Collection incorporates a participatory experience, Formula Morph, into the exhibition to help visitors better understand the visual representation of the equations.

Provided by the Museum of Mathematics in New York City, Formula Morph shows some of the same models and equations that are featured in the exhibition. Users can select an equation, and adjust it using colored knobs that then alter the shape of the object on the screen. Formula Morph creates a visual connection between the objects Man Ray used with the complicated mathematical equations that they represent.

Kelley Daley, Graduate Intern for Programs and Lectures

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Visitors adjust colored knobs to alter the mathematical models on the screen.

The Notion of Infinity

“Sugimoto’s sculptures in particular are a testimony of the intricate relationship between art and mathematics,” says Klaus Ottmann, curator of Hiroshi Sugimoto: Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models. “Both art and mathematics deal with the unimaginable, the non-represent-able; in this case the notion of infinity.”

Four Things You Didn’t Know About Hiroshi Sugimoto

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Hiroshi Sugimoto. Image courtesy of the artist

In a gallery adjacent to Man Ray–Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare, you’ll find photographs and sculptures by contemporary Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. His exhibition at the Phillips, Hiroshi Sugimoto: Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models, is on view through May 10, 2015.

1) Sugimoto’s work on view at the Phillips is largely inspired by Marcel Duchamp, particularly the Dadaist’s obsession with the mechanics of space and the mathematical foundations of his work.

2) He is best known for his time-exposed photography. Among his most recognized works are his series Theatres, which are shot for the full length of each movie’s projection, and Seascapes, a series of horizon lines formed by bodies of water whose movements have been blurred into stillness by Sugimoto’s long exposures.

3) All of the sculptures on view in this exhibition are derived from infinity equations. As is apparent from his time-exposed photography, time and history are significant themes in Sugimoto’s work, ranging from human time to cosmological time. Each sculpture is to be thought of as infinitely expanding, just as the universe continues to expand from a point of singularity.

4) His sculptures are created using computer-controlled, precision milling machines, and are crafted from solid blocks of aluminum.