Artists throughout the post–World War II period have been fascinated by the ways in which space can be activated. One key model has been the notion of topology (“logic of place”), which centers on the concept of geometric transformation, in which space and shape can be expanded, contracted, distorted, and twisted while the structure of the object remains constant throughout.
Taking this definition as a launching point, topology appeared in postwar art in the late 1960s. A turn away from the fixed structures of Euclidean geometry and empiricism, topological properties as applied in art include connection via a breakdown of boundaries, the use of open structures, and a cross-pollination of disciplines that questions systems of knowledge. Movement and change, rather than a static object itself, constitutes the artwork. Topologies demonstrates how this mathematical field and its implications came into use by visual artists who were expanding systems-based practices in a variety of media around the world.
Two conceptions of topology by artists whose works are on view at The Rachofsky House provide key axes to this exhibition. In Japan, the idea was interpreted through a physics of form foundational to the Mono-ha group’s breakthrough Land art piece Phase—Mother Earth (1968) by artist Nobuo Sekine, which operates on a continuous renewal of perception through a cycle of creation and recreation. In the United States, artist Dan Graham introduced topology in his seminal essay “Subject Matter” (1969), describing perceptual effects in process-based practices in which “the spectator’s visual field . . . shifts in a topology of expansion, contraction, or skew.” Together, these ideas from different parts of the world establish the radical significance of the idea that form may remain continuous despite changes that occur over time.
Gathering more than 100 works created between 1952 and 2016 by 61 artists, Topologies offers both snapshots of particular moments in time and historical lineages that unfold over years. It draws from The Rachofsky Collection’s strong formal and conceptual holdings on international practices that emphasize process and materiality. The show expands on themes including permutation and distortion in space, inversions and other shifts in the body’s phenomenological relationship to space, material transition based on gravity and entropy, the politics of displacement, and reconceiving abject encounters between the synthetic and organic.
Topologies draws works from The Rachofsky Collection, the Dallas Museum of Art, Deedie Rose, and Jennifer and John Eagle.