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Contact: Laurie Steelink
Images available upon request



Opening reception on Saturday, January 10, from 6–9 PM

5 December 2008, Santa Monica—Track 16 Gallery is pleased to present HYPERBOLIC CROCHET CORAL REEF by the INSTITUTE FOR FIGURING AND COMPANIONS, an exhibition curated by Margaret and Christine Wertheim. The exhibition runs from Saturday, January 10, through Saturday, February 28, 2009, with an opening reception on Saturday, January 10, from 6 to 9 P.M.

One of the acknowledged wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Queensland Australia, in a riotous profusion of color and form unparalleled on our planet. But global warming and pollutants so threaten this fragile marvel that it may well be gone by the end of the century. In homage to the Great One, Christine and Margaret Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring have instigated a project to crochet a handmade reef, a woolly testimony that now engages thousands of women the world over.

Vast in scale, collective in construction, exquisitely detailed, the Crochet Reef is an unprecedented, hybridic, handicraft invocation of a natural wonder that has become, in itself, a new kind of wonder spawned from tens of thousands of hours of labor. After major exhibitions in Chicago, New York, and most recently a smash success at The Hayward in London, Track 16 is proud to present the first West Coast showing of this giant, ongoing, evolutionary, fancywork experiment.

As a response to the ecological crisis facing marine environments, the Crochet Reef project has been called by Ren Weschler “the Aids Quilt of Global Warming.” What began as a tiny seed in the Wertheim’s home in Highland Park has morphed organically into a worldwide movement – Sister Reefs have now been made in Chicago, New York and London, with other efforts currently under way in Sydney, Arizona and Latvia. For the first time, in this exhibition, Crochet Reefs are brought together from around the globe, massing into an archipelago of stunning craft finesse.

Also on show is a new expanded version of the Toxic Reef, a gigantic, riotous agglomeration crocheted from plastic trash. An industrially malevolent, post-modern sibling to the classical, domestic beauty of the yarn-based Reef, the Toxic Reef, responds to the escalating problem of plastic trash inundating our oceans and threatening marine life everywhere.

Surprisingly, the roots of the Crochet Reef project are to be found in the realm of mathematics for the Reef also celebrates a geometry realized throughout the oceanic realm. Loopy kelps, fringed anemones, crenellated corals and curlicued sponges are all manifestations of a structure known as hyperbolic space. Though mathematicians had long believed this space impossible, nature has been playing with its permutations for hundreds of millions of years. In 1997, Dr Daina Taimina at Cornell, realized how to make models of this geometry using crochet, a discovery that astounded the mathematical world.

Building on Dr Taimina’s techniques, the Wertheim sisters have been evolving a taxonomy of reef-life forms. Just as the diversity of living species result from variations of a genetic code, so too a huge range of hyperbolic crochet ‘species’ may be brought into being through modifications in the underlying crochet code. Anyone who takes up this work can begin to develop his or her own woolly species and the project has become a kind of ongoing collective evolutionary experiment, involving women (and a few men) from all walks of life. Participants include Evelyn Hardin, a madly creative Dallas housewife; Sarah Simons, a Culver City book-maker and museum curator; Helen Bernasconi, a computer scientist and sheep farmer in rural Australia; Vonda N. MacIntrye, a science fiction writer in Seattle; Shari Porter an African American mother in San Bernardino; Rebecca Peapples, a master beader in Michigan; and Kathleen Greco, an industrial designer in Pennsylvania.

HYPERBOLIC CROCHET CORAL REEF will be shown concurrently with Harriet Zeitlin: ALL HANDS ON DECK. For more information please visit archive.track16.com.

More information about the project may be seen at the IFF website: www.theiff.org


Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim, co-curators and wranglers-in-chief to the Crochet Reef, are co-founders of the Institute For Figuring.

Margaret is a science writer and author of books on the cultural history of physics, including “The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet” and (forthcoming) “Lithium Legs and Apocalyptic Photons” about the life and work of outsider physicist James Carter. From 2000-2005, Margaret wrote the Quark Soup science column for the LA Weekly, and her work has been published in magazines and newspapers around the world. Christine is a faculty member in the Department of Critical Studies at California Institute of the Arts, where she teaches experimental writing and feminism. Her books include “+I’me’S-pace” a poetic anthology that explores the intersection of language and logic, “Noulipo” a compendium of new constraint-based writing, and Feminaissance (forthcoming). Both twins learned handicrafts from their mother Barbara when they were growing up in Brisbane, Australia.

The Institute For Figuring is a Los Angeles-based organization devoted to the aesthetic and poetic dimensions of science, mathematics and the technical arts. (www.theiff.org) The IFF hosts lectures, publishes books and curates exhibitions on subjects such as mathematical paper folding, logic crystallography and the anatomy of insects. Recent exhibitions include, Inventing Kindergarten at Art Center College of Design, The Business Card Menger Sponge at Machine Project, and The Logic Alphabet of Shea Zellweger, currently on show at the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The IFF’s work has been acknowledged in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, The Nation, The Times of London, The Guardian, Make Craft, and many other publications.

This exhibition is supported by grants from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Norton Family Foundation, The Daniel and Joanna Rose Foundation, and Bella Meyer.