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Zimmerli Art Museum Presents Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein

A groundbreaking exhibit that explores how modern art was influenced by advances in science, from Einstein’s theory of relativity to newly powerful microscopic and telescopic lenses, is on display at the Zimmerli Art Museum as part of an initiative bring together the study of art and science at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

In response to the exhibit, called Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein, the museum is planning a series of seminars by Rutgers physicists, engineers, astronomers and other faculty on the nexus between art and science. Rutgers science faculty also plan to incorporate the exhibit into their coursework during the fall semester. 

“Science and art have always been fused,” said Geeta Govindarajoo, an associate teaching professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. She plans to incorporate the exhibit into her fall “Chemistry of Art” course, which examines the intersection of chemistry with the visual arts, including the principles of color, paint, paper, clay, glass, metals, forgeries and issues of environmentally sustainable art.

“Figuring out how to make a specific type of paint through experiments with pigment and dye, learning how corrosion can affect metal or how to build a structure that will last for centuries like the Romans – it all requires a level of science,’’ Govindarajoo said. “And this exhibit offers, quite literally, a multidimensional way to explore the ways art and science inform each other.”

The exhibit, opening Sept. 3, will examine works by celebrated artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Isamu Noguchi, Dorothea Tanning and others, who embraced the “Dimensionist Manifesto,” a movement led by Hungarian poet Charles Sirató to explore the cosmic and microscopic realities that science was bringing to light. 

 The exhibit’s 75 works by more than 36 artists include Helen Lundeberg’s Microcosm and Macrocosm (1937), which contrasts bacteria with the scale of a galaxy, and Isamu Noguchi’s E= MC2 (1944), a papier-mâché starburst that represents the conversion of matter into explosive energy.

Zimmerli Museum Director Thomas Sokolowski said the exhibit provides an opportunity to examine the interconnection of art and science.

“We have been assembling faculty from all across the disciplines represented at Rutgers in fruitful discussions about how best to engage the university community in intellectual debate over synchronicities between the arts and sciences,” Sokolowski said. “Across the board, physicists, engineers and astronomers are planning seminars, lectures and a daylong symposium to address commonalities in the ways in which the two halves of the brain overlap. We believe this project will be a game-changer in the way the Rutgers community explores intellectual discourse.”

Vanja Malloy, former curator of American art at the Mead Art Museum, organized the first of its kind touring exhibit that opened at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The presentation at the Zimmerli, on display through Jan. 5, is organized by Donna Gustafson, curator of American art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs. The exhibit is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Terra Foundation for American Art , the Arts at Amherst Initiative, the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund, the David W. Mesker ’53 Fund, and the Wise Fund for Fine Arts. The presentation at the Zimmerli is additionally funded by a grant from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund and by the Salgo Trust for Education.

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