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Reviewed by:
  • Gerard Caris: Pentagonismus/Pentagonism, and: Gerard Caris: Art and Mathematics. New Reflections on the Pentagon/Kunst Und Mathematik. Neue Reflexionen Ueber Das Fuenfeck, and: Tekeningen/Drawings SMA Cahiers, and: Pentagonisme/Pentagonism. SMA Cahiers
  • Rob Harle (bio)
Gerard Caris: Pentagonismus/Pentagonism edited by Gregor Jansen and Peter Weibel (bilingual: English/German). ZKM/Museum fuer Neue Kunst Karls- ruhe. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig, Cologne, Germany, 2007. 160 pp. illus. ISBN: 978-3-8656-0251-0.
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. ISBN: 3-0000-4903-7.
Tekeningen/Drawings SMA Cahiers by Gerard Caris (bilingual, Dutch/ English). Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Artist and Authors, 2007. 37 pp., illus. ISBN: 90-5006-124-9.
Pentagonisme/Pentagonism. SMA Cahiers. by Gerard Caris (bilingual, Dutch/ English). Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, The Artist and the Authors, 2007. 145 pp., illus. ISBN: 90-5006-154-0.

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 color and black-and-white reproductions of Caris’s 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 Math-ematik (Art and Mathematics) has a hard cover and is a catalogue of his exhibition at the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in 1991.

The fourth book, the thickest (also 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’s work. It is supported by ZKM Museum (Centre for Art and Media Technology) in Karlsruhe Germany and is edited by G. Jansen and P. Weibel. This title is the same as the soft cover (SMA) catalogue, which actually presents more examples of Caris’s 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’s artwork, inspiration and life story.

Caris’s 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 and regular 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’s 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’s 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’s work from a neurophysiological standpoint, discussing the way our brains seem to [End Page 410] 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’s drawings and relief structures make one feel like one’s brain is being twisted this way and then that. It is not only an optical illusion effect but a different kind of visual challenge for the brain...


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