From the Quantum to the Infinite

Jody Rasch is a New York City area-based artist whose work is based on themes from astronomy, biology, physics and spectra. The artist has been exhibiting his work nationally for over 25 years. Duality–abstraction and representation, the literal and the metaphorical, science and mysticism, the unseen and the seen–is a predominant theme in Rasch’s work.

“These pieces, based on electron microscopy, particle accelerators, and radio astronomy are an expression of both the patterns of the natural world and the metaphors underlying modern science. They allow us to see the beauty in the repulsive, to find knowledge in the unknown, to observe the unseen to more clearly see our world.”

Since the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, humankind has sought to comprehend how the infinite universe came into being and to divine the patterns and order within it. We, too, have striven to understand the nature of humanity and our place in the universe.

New forms of visualization, such as space-based telescopes, nuclear colliders and electron microscopes, have allowed us to see deep into our universe, even at a quantum level, and this has changed the way we view our place in it.

These new forms of visualization can be used to create “an impression on the soul.” As Wassily Kandinsky said “. . . on the average man, the impression caused by familiar objects will be purely superficial. A first encounter with any new phenomenon [however] exercises an impression on the soul.”

These images create a sense of the infinite, a sense of awe – the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world.

We find ourselves, in the 21st century, still grappling with the questions the Mesopotamians and Egyptians looked to answer. Advancements in science have challenged our worldview and the concept of God first and then man as the center of the universe.

The loss of God and, therefore, the sense of the infinite as the measure of all things has provoked a sense of cultural anxiety in a large portion of contemporary society. With religion, and therefore God, no longer holding a central position, there is little in our daily life to remind us, as religion once did, that we are part of the larger infinite cosmos. Nevertheless, there are those of us who, rather than being driven by cultural anxiety to retreat to the certainties, hierarchies and authoritarian visions of a mythic past, are drawn by curiosity and fascination to explore new concepts of our place in the cosmos and to delve into vast new views of the nature of reality which science has granted us. We yearn for meaning.

There is an important role for art to play. As David Hockney put it, “If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. . . he’s really needed.” Artists are striving for art that is not about art, but art that is about reality – an art which reconnects us to the universe.

The cutting edge of quantum physics, astronomy, and biology brings us intimations of a new worldview based on the images, metaphors and concepts that we are among the first generations to have been given glimpses of.  My recent work focuses on the quantum nature of reality and the infinite nature of astronomy. In the quantum realm I use images of hydrogen atom, bubble chambers, as well as more theoretical constructs. For the infinite, images of black holes, galaxies and super novae are used. Both the quantum and the infinite are meant to instill a sense of wonder and awe.

As Franz Marc said, “The art of the future will give form to our scientific convictions; this is our religion and our truth, and it is profound and weighty enough to produce the greatest style and the greatest revaluation of form that the world has ever seen.”

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