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Grids & Gradients

The Visual Systems of Vernon Pratt

Exhibition: August 21 through November 9, 2018

Vernon Pratt, Buy/Sin


Drawn primarily from the collection of the WCU Fine Art Museum, this exhibition brings together a selection of recently-acquired paintings by Vernon Pratt, an artist who worked at the intersection of art and mathematics. Pratt took a systematic approach to his creative process, often exploring the rich array of possibilities within a given set of parameters.

The paintings on view focus on two of Pratt's characteristic elements—the grid and the gradient. Math activities for both college-age and middle-school students will be developed in conjunction with the exhibition to help illuminate the connections between art and math that permeate Pratt's work.

More about the artist

Vernon Pratt (1940-2000) lived and worked in Durham, NC and was passionate about the interrelationship of math, music, and art. He taught in the Art Department at Duke University for over 30 years, developing a particular form of abstraction, which he termed "systematic abstraction." In the late 1960s, he adopted the motto that "simple is complicated enough," and began limiting his palette to black, white, and gray. This led him to explore the visual potential of grayscale gradients in his paintings, and he developed a fascination with incremental form, using each canvas to create a series of visual transformations with colors, shapes, or words. His work is informed by the art of the Russian Constructivists, 1960s Minimalism, and Conceptual Art, including the work of Sol LeWitt, who was one of his close friends.

A special thank you to The Vernon Pratt Project for their support of this exhibition.

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