Another highlight of the fair was the work of Shanthi Chandrasekar, a Tamil artist based in Maryland showing her work through Lamina Project. I was drawn in by Chandrasekar’s circular handmade paper discs that were unshielded and fluttering ever-so-gently in the breeze of passersby. I commented that they reminded me of chapatis because of their organically imperfect edges and cream and black palette, and she told me that the work next to it, a large ink drawing speckled with orange circles, reminded her of gulab jamun (a popular West and South Asian dessert made from balls of flour and soaked in rose syrup).
After our shared laugh, Chandrasekar told me about how her multidisciplinary practice weaves a thread (metaphorically and sometimes physically) through the molecular, the cosmic, and what can be seen with the human eye alone. Her obsessive but meditative patterning serves as an attempt in transcribing the universe through naturally occurring motifs rooted in physics, biology, chemistry, and astronomy. Unfazed by mistakes, Chandrasekar both imparts her optimistic passion for understanding the science of life through her joyful, layered, and ever-evolving craft.
Art Activations by Three Female Artists
Suspended at the fair's entrance is a site-specific sculptural installation by Shanthi Chandrasekar presented by LAMINAproject. Titled Cosmic Vibrations - Raining Gold, the work is inspired by various creation theories and discoveries in cosmology. Made of metal rings, wire, and monofilament, the work presents two neutron stars that merge and form gold.
Chandrasekar is a multidisciplinary artist trained in the traditional art forms of Kolam and Tanjore-style painting. She combines geometrical abstraction, visual interpretations, and traditional arts to delve into the study of the origin of the universe and search for ultimate truths.
Fairgoers entering Volta were greeted with a glittery installation by Shanthi Chandrasekar titled “Cosmic Vibrations – Raining Gold” (2023). I remember that the self-taught sculpture artist wowed fair-goers at Art on Paper in September with her meticulously hole-punched ceiling fixtures. But for this exhibition, Chandrasekar traded paper for metal to create an ethereal hanging sculpture made of gold wiring and variously sized rings. Like much of her work, the installation references cosmological and philosophical concepts, such as kilonovas — the rare collision of two neutron stars that produces heavy metals.
The display was led by Lamina Project, a New York gallery that focuses on the crossover between art and science. Lamina Project’s own gallery presentation continued to lead to more intriguing artwork based on mathematical patterns and microbiological research by artists Jody Rasch and Mark Pomilio, alongside additional mesmerizing works by Chandrasekar.
Most impressive to me of the sculptural works is Shanthi Chandrasekar’s “Entropy: Macrostates & Microstates.” Near the top of the hanging piece are a set of large circular disks populated with holes of varying sizes. Hanging from those disks are smaller disks made from the punched out holes — and the disks hanging off them subsequently iterate accordingly.
Chandrasekar, who didn’t formally study art but studied physics and psychology, says that from a young age she was drawn to the quotidian delights of the hole punch. “I loved the leftover negative space,” she explains.
“The more I worked, the more I got to understand the medium, in terms of not using pencil or anything else other than a piece of paper and a hole punch. I loved every bit of the paper I was punching,” she says, relating her process and the finished product with entropy. Meticulously saving each piece of paper that she punched out, she says, “is entropy at different levels; change happening. It’s the disintegration of a sheet of paper — dissipating energy.” As I follow that dissipation to the ground, I note the piles of infinitesimal debris at our feet. “It all comes down to this. After this, you can’t go any further,” Chandrasekar laughs.
“It’s also a remnant of my childhood — growing up by the sea, and coming to this country, and the snow, the rain, the leaves,” she says. As an aside, she adds that she wasn’t too strict with herself about calculating the number of holes in each disc, but that “prime numbers” have the tendency to “go wild.” Critical to the sculptural pleasure (and attendant creative envy) of these works is the pleasure of intricacy in a familiar medium that many of us engage with only haphazardly and instrumentally.
Art on Paper, New York's paper-based contemporary art fair, will return to Manhattan's Pier 36 from 8 to 11 September.
Eighty-seven galleries are taking part this year, a significant leap up from 67 in 2021.
'The fair has always had a notable international component, but many of those galleries were not able to join us in 2021 due to travel restrictions,' said Kelly Freeman, Director of AMP Events, which organises the fair. 'With the reopening of borders, we've been able to welcome back more of these incredible programmes.'
'Art on Paper is inherently a remarkable opportunity to access the global art market during New York City's Armory Week, and as such, the fair has a dedicated audience that returns year over year to support exhibiting programmes and artists,' she added.
Freeman said she was especially excited to spend time with the public projects programme devoted to female makers.
Among the works by women are a mobile comprising repurposed waste paper 'cookies' by New York-based Japanese ceramicist and designer Yuko Nishikawa that will be suspended in Art on Paper's central lounge. Nearby, Wook+Lattuada (New York) will present NYU professor emeritus Angiola Churchill's Labyrinth, an installation of suspended paper walls with cut out labyrinthine patterns.
Some of the most innovative artists working today are fusing art and science and taking inspiration from science. LAMINAproject−a gallery/platform devoted to art/science−showcases artwork by emerging and established artists that integrates ideas, images and metaphors of science to convey fundamental truths about the world and explore different characteristics of art-science relationships. LAMINAproject’s artists not only show the beauty of science, but also communicate how these images relate to and help us see beyond our daily existence. As expressions of both the patterns of the natural world and the metaphors underlying modern science, their art allows us to see beauty in the repulsive, to find knowledge in the unknown, and to observe the unseen to more clearly see our world. By exploring the invisible, Esslinger, Gavish, and Rasch invite the observer to look beyond the “seen” to appreciate the beauty and mystery of the “unseen.”