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MOSAICS———–The Promise of Diagonality

The Promise of Diagonality

Mosaics were first created about 2000 BCE by artisans who pushed cones of terracotta point-first into a medium that formed a decoration. Pebble pavements were introduced in the 8th century BCE with colored pebbles, but these were geometrically unstructured and were non-representational. It was the ancient Greeks who transformed mosaics into an art form in the 4th century with images of animals and people and an array of geometric forms.

By the 2nd century BCE, small tesserae were being manufactured and employed in mosaic work to add extra detail and color. The Greeks used mosaics to create floor and wall decoration. Colored glass was used along with stones (usually marble and oftentimes cube shaped), but the glass was limited to use on walls.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were much more adventurous with the angular geometry of their mosaics than with the geometry of their buildings. Although the diagonal motif abounds in Greek and Roman mosaics, it would take dramatic changes in building engineering, building materials, and aesthetic attitudes before what we see in the ancient mosaics to find expression in buildings and art of the modern era.

It is relatively easy to create adventurous and daring arrays of complex geometric shapes in two dimensions, but to transform those flat patterns into three dimensional habitable structures is a challenge of a different order. Such a leap required centuries of technological development and the dissolution of the strictures that revered the right angle in construction and largely discouraged complex geometry in architecture until the end of the 19th century. But the promise and the vision of Diagonality in three dimensions was there visible underfoot for centuries.

Manfred MohrArtist1969-Present

Manfred Mohr

In the mid-1960s, after discovering information aesthetics as taught by Professor Max Bense, Manfred Mohr (b. 1938) turned from abstract expressionism to computer-generated algorithmic geometry. Born in Pforzheim, Germany, he lived also in Barcelona and Paris before taking up permanent residence in New York. Almost every one of his works in his newly adopted computer-generated geometric mode of expression reveals a pivotal embrace of Diagonality. This engagement with Diagonality, however, did not result from an understanding of the historic roots of the diagonal motif nor of the cultural Phenomenon of Diagonality that swept the world in the 20th century. Like almost all modern artists working in the angular genre, it was a “blind” engagement with Diagonality. However, this blind engagement in no way diminishes the significant artistic merits of Manfred Mohr’s works. In fact, it elevates his body of work because his use of the diagonal springs from subconscious artistic sources.

From 1957 to 1961, Mohr was a jazz musician (tenor sax and oboe). In 1960 he turned briefly to action paintings until he came under the influence of Bense’s information aesthetics in 1961. In 1962, living in Barcelona, his palette turned exclusively to black and white. Between 1964 and 1967, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Experiments in geometric themes led to hard-edge painting.

It was in 1969 that Mohr started drawing with a computer. In 1972 he began producing sequential computer drawings and then computer-generated animations. In 1977 he introduced “Diagonal-Paths” into his work. Diagonal-paths continued as a major motif in his work even though he continued to explore multi-dimensional mathematical forms of expression. Mohr states in the exhibition catalogue “Manfred Mohr CUBIC LIMIT II, Generative Drawings” Galerie Pierre Weiller, Paris 1977, “While always maintaining the rigid structure of the cube, I destroyed the three-dimensional illusion as well as the symmetries of the cube, drawn in two dimensions, thus creating generators of two dimensional ‘êtres graphiques’.”

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