Toward a Tangled Turn: Knots, Nets, Threads & Loops

Loosely and carefully woven together, this group art exhibition curated by Austin Pratt features a wide-ranging collection of artworks that point or speak to the ideas of 'knots, nets, threads, & loops'. This open and poetic meditation on form (physical or otherwise), invites reflection on paradox, ambiguity, mystery, and metaphor. From avant-garde electronic noise music through to traditional indigenous woven and beaded baskets; from archival collection of global folk games and narrative devices to contemporary painting and sculpture, this exhibition examines these guiding and tangled forms in many possible ways: as intellectual curiosities, mental models or frames, mathematic diagram, functional and material tools, or totemic magical and spiritual objects, each discrete but non-trivial. Many of these themes and threads here approach analytic concepts and questions from the field of topology, a branch of pure mathematics. In topology, geometric forms such as knots and loops are studied and questioned by how they react to various changes. Despite warping, bending, twisting, and stretching, some properties of geometric objects do not depend on their exact shape, but how they are put together, and what is preserved. An object such as the Mobius Strip - a simple, twisted band, becomes an infinite single-sided loop, and serves as an indicative example of a topological curiosity. Knots, in their numerous spatial complexities, are another. Walking a more poetic path, the forms of 'knots, nets, threads & loops' can be understood through a metaphoric or archetypal perspective. The Buddhist metaphor of life's Endless Knot, unifying wisdom and compassion, or the ancient concept of Eternal Return, both question the possible recurring and cyclical looping concept of life and time. The psychological and cultural character of the trickster, throughout world traditions, resonates metaphorically in roads, paths, journeys, crossroads, and other in-between sites, serving as an emblem of sacred messenger, writer, boundary-crosser, rule-breaker, genius and fool. Mythic characters such as Hermes, Mercury, Eshu, Coyote, and Bugs Bunny inhabit this tricky place, finding salience in the twisting journey of a road or labyrinth, or in the intersecting points in a net or network; crossing boundaries, breaking rules, or delivering important messages, for worse or for better. Toward a Tangled Turn is equal parts mathematic precision and fuzzy dream, ruminating on questions of mind, matter, space, and time. As part of University Galleries' mission to serve as an educational and community hub, this semester-long exhibition invites students and faculty to engage with the themes or artworks in the show in their own coursework as a way to form dialogue among various disciplines. Faculty are invited to visit the exhibit with their classes, or use the gallery to create prompts for writing projects, studio work, or discussions. As an example, this Fall, UNR Professor of Mathematics Stanislav Jabuka will be teaching the first-ever course on Knot Theory at UNR. Throughout the semester, University Galleries' will be hosting the Visiting Artists & Scholars Lecture Series, several of which are directly related to the exhibition. In the spirit of this interdisciplinary engagement, on October 12, there will be a panel discussion between UNR Professor of Mathematics Christopher Herald and exhibiting visiting artist Julian Hoeber. 

Friday, December 15, 2023 at 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Sheppard Contemporary, CFA 162
39.5412425545764, -119.8168797791