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Gerard Caris: Pentagonismus/Pentagonism

by Gregor Jansen and Peter Weibel, Editors
Bilingual: English/German
ZKM / Museum fuer Neue Kunst Karlsruhe. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig, Koeln, 2007
160 pp., illus. col., b/w. $NA
ISBN: 978-3-86560-251-0.

Gerard Caris: Art and Mathematics. New Reflections on the Pentagon. / Kunst und Mathematik. Neue Reflexionen ueber das Fuenfeck

by Gerard Caris and Theresia Kiefer
Exhibition catalogue; bilingual: English/German
Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Kuenstler und Ahtoren / Artist and authors, Germany, 2007
95 pp., illus. b/w, col. $NA
ISBN: 3-00-004903-7.

Tekeningen / Drawings S M A Cahiers.

by Gerard Caris
Bilingual: Dutch / English
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, The Artist and the Authors, 2007
37 pp., illus. b/w, col. $NA
ISBN: 90-5006-124-9.

Pentagonisme / Pentagonism. S M A Cahiers

by Gerard Caris
Bilingual: Dutch / English
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, The Artist and the Authors, 2007
145 pp., illus. b/w, col. $NA
ISBN: 90-5006-154-0.

Reviewed by Rob Harle


This review discusses four separate books concerning the work of Dutch artist Gerard Caris. Two of the books, with soft covers, are catalogues with essays. They also have colour and black & white reproductions of Caris’ drawings, relief structures and 3D sculptures, these have been associated with exhibitions of his work at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (SMA).

The third book, Kunst und Mathematik (Art & Mathematics) has a hard cover and is a catalogue of his exhibition at the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in 1991.

The fourth book, the thickest at 160 pages, again with hard cover, and if selected singularly, perhaps the most important, or at least most comprehensive, is entitled Pentagonismus (Pentagonism). This book has six essays by leading art scholars and high quality images of Caris’ work. It is supported by ZKM Museum (Centre for Art and Media Technology) in Karlsruhe Germany and is edited by G. Jansen & P. Weibel. This title is the same as the soft cover (SMA) catalogue that actually presents more examples of Caris’ artwork.

All the books have excellent quality reproductions and are bi-lingual in all respects: essays, titles, artwork descriptions and so on. They are available from the respective museums where they were published and Pentagonism (hard cover) is also available from bookshops. Combined, the books form a definitive reference for Caris’ artwork, inspiration and life story.

Caris’ work will be of particular interest to the Leonardo community as his work crosses the boundaries of art and science, and in a sense, dissolves these often artificial boundaries to produce a unique body of artwork based on mathematical and scientific exploration. His work for over 40 years has exclusively involved the nature and properties of the pentagon that regularly dodecahedron. This study has led to new discoveries in mathematics and created aesthetically beautiful artworks concerning the dodecahedron which many regard has having an almost mystical nature. "His unique genius explores this new universe, thus creating bridges between mathematics, crystallography and art" (p.48).

The essay in the larger SMA catalogue, Passion and precision: The art of Gerard Caris by Evert van Uitert (pp. 6 — 25) is an excellent overall introduction to Caris’ personal journey, detailing training, travels, pre-art occupations and of course his studies in California and inspiration to work with the illusive qualities of pentagons and dodecahedrons.

The six essays in Pentagonism approach Caris’ work in very different ways. Holz for example discusses the sensuousness of ideal form and the importance of the number five for Caris. Where as Zeki in, The Art of Gerard Caris and the Brain’s Search for Knowledge approaches Caris’ work from a neurophysiological standpoint, discussing the way our brains seem to have preference for viewing horizontal lines or diagonals or verticals which has been shown through MRI brain scans of individuals viewing different artworks. Some of Caris’ drawings and relief structures make one feel like one’s brain is being twisted this way then that. It is not only an optical illusion effect but a different kind of visual challenge for the brain. "They create physical and mental conditions in which we become conscious of something in ourselves that has been triggered by geometrical form and its treatment" (p. 57).

I appreciate and enjoy Caris’ artwork not only because it is challenging, aesthetically pleasing, and culturally important, but also because in a sense Caris is a loner and marches to the beat of his own drum. In a world where embracing the latest trend is almost essential for artistic (or scientific) survival there is something refreshing and optimistic about an artist that quietly and obsessively follows their own path no matter the consequences. Caris is one such artist and if for no other reason than this it is worthwhile including these books or at the least Pentagonisms in your library.



Updated 1st January 2008

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