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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Mathematics and Art edited by Claude P. Brutter (Springer-Verlag) These are the proceedings of a colloquium on Mathematics and Art held in Maubeuge , France in September of 2000 at the Thtre du Mange. They offer examples in many basic mathematical fields including polyhedra theory, group theory, solving polynomial equations, dynamical systems and differential topology. For a long time, arts, architecture, music and painting have been the source of new developments in mathematics. And vice versa, artists have often found new techniques, themes and inspiration within mathematics. Here, while mathematicians provide mathematical tools for the analysis of musical creations, the contributions from sculptors emphasize the role of mathematics in their work.

The relationship between Mathematics and the Arts, according to the editor, Claude P. Brutter, Professor of Mathematics, Universit Paris, is so tight that sometimes Mathematics is compared with one of the Fine Arts. One of the main reasons,  he says,  which solder the arts to mathematics is probably the following: the tangible objects, the living beings, are not only present in space, and are evolving in space, but are moreover highly elaborated constructions, obtained from the unfolding of the properties of the primordial space.

Themes of the colloquium, based on those topics/chapters presented, include

  1. Perspective and geometry
  2. Polyhedra
  3. Knot-shaped curves
  4. The surfaces
  5. Recurrence and dynamic systems
  6. The sphere inversion

The order of articles follows that of the talks. Some of the first titles include:

  • Solid-Segment Sculptures George W. Hart
  • Visualizing Mathematics Online Konrad Polthier
  • The Design of 2-Colour Wallpaper Patterns Using Methods Based on Chaotic Dynamics and Symmetry Michael Field
  • Machines for Building Symmetry Maria Ded

Recent progress in research, teaching and communication has arisen from the use of new tools in visualization. To be fruitful, visualization needs precision and beauty. Mathematics and Art is a source of mathematical illustrations by mathematicians as well as artists.

Geometric Abstraction: Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps De Cisneros Collection by Yve-Alain Bois, Paulo Herkenhoff, Ariel Jimenez, Luis enriqu Ormas, Luis Perez Oramas, Ariel Jiminez (Yale University Press) Widely praised for its fine collection of Latin American geometric abstract art, the Coleccin Patricia Phelps de Cisneros of Caracas, Venezuela, contains the compelling work of such leading artists as Uruguayan Joaqun Torres-Garcia, Brazilians Lygia Clark and Hlio Oiticica, Venezuelans Gego and Jsus Rafael Soto, and Argentinians Toms Maldonado, Ral Lozza, and Alfredo Hlito. This lavishly illustrated book presents a selection of more than eighty paintings, drawings, and sculptures from the Cisneros collection, representing some two dozen Latin American artists. The works were completed between 1934 and 1988, but the vast majority date from the "heroic" years of geometric abstraction, 19481966.
This special bilingual volume explores in both English and Spanish the history and importance of the major movements that were dedicated to geometric abstraction. These movements include Concretism and Neo-Concretism in Brazil, Constructivism in Uruguay, the Madi Group and Concrete artists in Argentina, and Kinetic Abstraction and Neo-Constructivism in Venezuela. The book also offers biographies of the artists and an intriguing selection of their statements and manifestos.

Odjig: The Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000 by Daphne Odjig, Bob Boyer, Carol Pokedworny, Phillip Gevik (Firefly) is a graceful blend of biography, essay, and critique which illuminates the importance of this gifted artist to the Canadian artistic community and provides art lovers with a rare glimpse into the extraordinary heart of this painter.

Odjig confronts the themes of the aboriginal experience, her family dynamic, and her spiritual beliefs in her paintings, which are extremely personal. Collectors of her works are awed by her innovative use of traditional aboriginal symbols, which transcend the specific culture from which they come.

In the early 1960s, her development of a recognizable "Odjig style" garnered her enough attention to make possible her first solo show in 1967. Odjig's reputation as an artist was growing internationally and her commissioned painting Earth Mother was displayed at EXPO '70 in Japan. Odjig's importance as a Canadian artist is immeasurable. Bob Boyer, a renowned Metis artist and lecturer, absorbingly explores in his preface the place of Native art in the broader spectrum of Canadian culture, in order to provide a more in-depth perspective on Odjig's significance. Pamela Krueger, an award-winning appreciator of Canadian art, discusses in the introduction the course of Odjig's life and career and places her art into its cultural context.

Leonardo Da Vinci: The Complete Paintings by Pietro C. Marani offers the first major reassessment of the paintings by the Renaissance master. Definitely an major study in its reproductive detail of the paintings (295 illustrations, 200 in full color, 2 double gatefolds in full color) and in its fresh considerations of form and style by a major da Vinci scholar.

Since his own lifetime, the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci have always been admired as among the greatest achievements of Renaissance art. They have been studied endlessly, yet they remain enigmatic and little understood. Indeed, we still debate which of the numerous works attributed to him are really by his hand, and which are by emulators or members of his workshop.

Now, for the first time in a quarter-century, an eminent scholar reexamines the complete oeuvre of Leonardo, drawing on recent archival research that has uncovered important new documents relating to the artist's work and career. Many of Leonardo's paintings have been cleaned and restored, including the magnificent Last Supper, recently unveiled after more than ten years of painstaking conservation. Fresh photography and advanced printing techniques now permit these precious masterworks to be reproduced with unparalleled clarity and accuracy.

All of Leonardo's paintings are here, together with related drawings and many enlarged details that reveal the painter's extraordinary sense of light and shadow, color and atmosphere-the fugitive, intangible quality we call "Leonardesque." Among the revelations of this splendid book is the discovery that this mysterious touch of the artist is a literal thing: in some of the large-scale photographs we may see his fingerprints embedded in the surface of the paint, where he used his fingertips to blend his celebrated smoky, sfumato tones.

Pietro C. Marani, co-director of the restoration of The Last Supper and a preeminent expert on Leonardo's life and works, provides a comprehensive survey of the paintings, establishing their probable dates and sequence, and determining which works were made with the participation of assistants and which by the master alone. Included are paintings and sculptures by Leonardo's teacher, Andrea Verrocchio, such colleagues as Lorenzo de' Credi and Sandro Botticelli, and his students Ambrogio de' Predis, Giovan Antonio Boltraffio, and others. The Annunciation and The Last Supper are presented in lush double gatefolds, with accompanying full-page details. Marani also explores such enduring questions as Leonardo's relationship to the other great artists of his time, the influence upon him of the art and literature of ancient Rome, his passion for scientific inquiry and analysis, and the role of royal and noble patrons in his career.

Leonardo will always remain an elusive artist, whose works are puzzles to be pored over endlessly, interpreted, and reinterpreted, as well as objects of breathtaking beauty simply to be enjoyed. Here at last is in Leonardo Da Vinci: The Complete Paintings a book that does justice to the magnificent accomplishments of this great artist.

PIETRO C. MARANI is one of the world's foremost scholars on Leonardo da Vinci and author of more than 130 books, essays, and articles on the artist and his period. A former vice-director of the Brera Museum in Milan, and co-director of the recent restoration of Leonardo's Last Supper, he is now a professor of art history at the Politecnico di Milano.

MEXICAN ART MASTERPIECES by Marcus B. Burke ($35.00, hardcover, 120 pages 48 colorplates, 8 black & white, LEVIN ASSOCIATES, INC. ISBN: 0883635984)

Mexican art has an original style that boasts of uniqueness and diversity. The great mix of races and the assorted influences of an often changing political and social system over the centuries forced Mexicans to search carefully for their national identity, and they looked to art for a sense of distinction.

Mexico's artistic history has been evolving for more than two thousand years and modern Mexican art embodies elements and characteristics of centuries of indigenous art. Imbued with traces of ancient mysticism and combining both pagan and Christian beliefs, Mexican art is both visual and narrative in nature as colorful and complex as the Mexican people themselves. MEXICAN ART MASTERPIECES showcases 48 of the most unique and fascinating pieces of Mexican art, ancient ceramic statues and mosaic masks from the Mayans and Aztecs, tomb facades and interior temple reliefs, feather pictures, monstrances, classically inspired paintings by artists of the viceregal period including Baltasar de Echeve Orio and Juan Rodrfguez Judrez, nineteenth-century masterpieces by Obregan and Velasco, and twentieth-century favorites including works by Mexican muralist Rivera, Orozco, Kahlo and others. Marcus Burke combines scholarship with passionate storytelling in the 48 essays that accompany the works, and reveals the complicated connections between Mexican politics, society, and art.

From Mayan pottery to Rivera's murals, the unique qualities of Mexican art have fascinated art lovers and collectors for centuries. In words and pictures, this volume weaves an inspiring tale of the creative and individualistic artistic endeavors of the Mexican people.

Dr. Marcus B. Burke is Curator of Paintings and Drawings at the Hispanic Society of America`in New York City. He is widely published on the subject of Mexican art.


by Penelope Niven

Clarkson Potter

$45.00, hardcover, 672 pages, 40 illustrations, notes, index


This informative and frank study of Edward Steichen focuses upon the development of photography as a fine art in the first half of this century. Niven has given us a biography rich in detail and people. As a biographer, she shows special skills in developing moments in Steichen’s life into broad expanses of time and situation to offer insight into so much that is ‘modern’ in modern art.

While researching a book on poet Carl Sandburg, biographer Penelope Niven discovered an intriguing letter-indecipherable handwriting, unorthodox spelling-from celebrated photographer Edward Steichen, Sandburg’s brother-in-law. As she read, Niven realized that Steichen was much more than an interesting figure in someone else’s story and deserved greater attention. In STEICHEN, Penelope Niven reveals the remarkable man behind the lens: a brilliant, self-taught photographer who almost single-handedly revolutionized the art world in the 20th century by helping legitimize photography as an artistic medium, introducing modern art to America at the turn of the century, curating the world’s most popular photography exhibit at the Museum of Modem Art, and defining fashion and celebrity photography in the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Rich in vivid detail and more than forty black-and-white photographs, STEICHEN is the first biography of the artist since Steichen’s own best-selling 1963 autobiography, A Life in Photography. It was no small task to reconstruct Steichen’s complex and fascinating life: Niven searched the world over for Steichen’s letters, paintings, and photographs, gaining unprecedented access to his public and private papers. Assembled with scholarly care and animated by the personal voices of Steichen’s own family, STEICHEN paints an indelible portrait of a charismatic, complex, and very human individual whose lifetime achievements-as photographer, painter, curator, humanist, scientist, and war hero-outstripped those of his better-known contemporaries.

Edward Steichen is often remembered for his collaboration with other famous artists, including Alfred Stieglitz and brother-in-law Carl Sandburg, but as STEICHEN shows, his influence on the art world was extraordinary in its own right. At age sixteen, Steichen bought his first box camera and began to teach himself the art and science of photography. By the time he was twenty, his photographs were exhibited in the top international shows, and by his death in 1973, he was seen as the most successful commercial cameraman of his time.

Steichen’s photographs are living testaments to his era-illuminations of the human experience from the turn of the century through two world wars and into the Cold War. As revealed in this book, Steichen believed that photography was not just a trade, but a "democratic art" available to all and for all and a means of communicating with people around the world. Indeed, as cofounder with Steiglitz of "The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession," Steichen introduced American audiences to the works of the great modernist artists, including Picasso, Rodin, Matisse, and Brancusi. As the first curator of photography at the Museum of Modem Art in New York City, he created the landmark exhibit "The Family of Man," which has touched a global audience of millions since its opening in 1955 and is still the most widely seen photo show in history.

As a cultural pioneer of the twentieth century, Steichen’s legacy is remarkable. As a fighter for artistic freedom and influence on photography as an art form, his impact is unmatched. STEICHEN is a fascinating, in-depth look at the genius behind the shutter.

PENELOPE NIVEN is the author of Carl Sandburg: A Biography (1991) and coauthor of James Earl Jones: Voices and Silences (1993). She was a principal consultant for the 1982 Public Television film biography Carl Sandburg, Echoes and Silences. She has served as a consultant for international television films on Sandburg and Steichen, as well as a recent Arts and Entertainment "Biography" documentary on James Earl Jones, based on their book. In 1993 she was one of six American writers to be invited to speak at the London Sunday Times Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature in Wales.

Exploring the Art of the Infinite
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Byron Preiss Multimedia Company, Inc.
$55.00, CD-ROM, PC Windows compatible, includes a comprehensive collection of M.C. Escher's art and a multimedia lab for making your own Escher-style works

Harry N.Abrams, Inc. with Byron Preiss Multimedia Company, Inc. co-published its first interactive CD-ROM, ESCHER INTERACTIVE. It is a classy survey of the internationally popular and best-selling images of the late Dutch printmaker and artist M. C. Escher.
ESCHER INTERACTIVE surveys his appealing and visually complex images depicting space and time.
Cleverly inventive, Escher created intricate visions and architectural landscapes that first attracted mathematicians and scientists and then became popular as nearly universal icons. The best feature of ESCHER INTERACTIVE is its gallery of more than 600 Escher works, including commentary and thematic analysis. The audio-visual biography of the artist is also well conceived. Puzzles, games and a drawing workshop offer visual clues as to how to work with images as Escher did. Unfortunately the interactive morphing program did not function on our computers.

Comprised of nine modules, ESCHER INTERACTIVE includes M.C. Escher, an audio-visual tour of Escher's life and art, with two videos of Escher at work, as well as Gallery, Tessellation Workshop, Concave & Convex, Animated Escher, Spheres, Morphing, Magic Images, and Impossible Puzzles.
The Gallery offers the most useful overview of his work. One may study each of Escher's prints and drawings; more than 600 works are featured.
Tessellation Workshop is an inexhaustible advanced drawing program that permits users to create and save their own Escher-like drawings, following formulas that Escher originated. It offers hours of fun as one explores the simple patterns that create complex patterns.
Concave & Convex is a perceptual game derived from a famous Escher print that develops and tests user ability to perceive spatial relationships in two dimensions.
In The Animated Escher, famous Escher pictures come to life in striking 3D animation.
In Spheres, users can move a spherical filter, as Escher did, to see how images can be distorted. Morphing is a playhouse that allows users to morph Escher's animals or their own creations from the Tessellation Workshop.
Six mysterious screens conceal Escher pictures beneath deceptive surface patterns in Magic Images, underscoring Escher's importance to the recent "Magic Eye" phenomenon.
Sixteen Impossible Puzzles, designed by Scott Kim, and based on the type of spatial illusion invented by Escher and Sir Roger Penrose, range from the relatively easy to the fiendishly difficult.
ESCHER INTERACTIVE was created by Michael M. Chanowski of Eyeware Interactive. Chanowski put together an international team of software designers and Escher experts for this ground-breaking project. Commentary by the artist's eldest son George Escher and noted Escher scholar, Dr. Doris Schattschneider, illuminates the artist's work in many useful ways.

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Last modified: November 27, 2016

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