Monday, April 07, 2014

Karen Shaw proves Mies and Browning right ...

...at least in fifteen out of nineteen languages.

Ms Shaw's (photo above) art is based on a simple premise that yields a plenitude of results. The premise is: assign to each letter of the Roman alphabet its ordinal number, A=1 through Z=26. For any word, sum up the numbers of the letters. Find other words having letters that yield the same sum. This can lead to interesting relationships that may be used as the basis for a work of art. For example:
The number 53 corresponds to O'Keeffe and to F Kahlo, artists associated with New Mexico and Mexico, respectively. It also is the sum of the word "sum," as well as of "emerge" and of the Spanish unidad ("unity").
Similarly, 77 yields print, Hogarth, Warhol, parallel, and character: something for aspiring art historians to contemplate.
The centerpiece of Ms Shaw's exhibit, "The Summantics of Art," was her demonstration that the statement "Less is more," which I have always associated with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the preeminent architects of the past century and designer of the Seagram Building, but which statement Ms Shaw noted was earlier used by the English romantic poet Robert Browning in Andrea del Sarto, is true in fifteen languages using the Roman alphabet. In each of these languages, including English, the sum of the numbers corresponding to the letters in the word meaning "less" is greater than that of the numbers corresponding to the letters in the word meaning "more." Ms Shaw admits this does not hold true for Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Gaelic, or Welsh, and wonders, "What could this mean?"

At the time she developed her numerological system, Ms Shaw wasn't aware of its kinship to the Jewish mystical practice called Gematria, but was delighted to learn of it.