Keith Tyson

05 Sep - 04 Oct 2008

"Fractal Dice"

September 5, 2008 — October 4, 2008

PaceWildenstein opens Keith Tyson’s Fractal Dice
in September at 545 West 22nd Street

An algorithm written by the artist determines what will be on view
in this new exhibition

NEW YORK CITY, July 25, 2008—In his newest body of work, Fractal Dice, conceptual artist Keith Tyson explores how decision-making in the creative process can be surrendered to and achieved by chance. The work on view in Fractal Dice is literally the result of an equation Tyson sent to the gallery in 2007. Using this algorithm, the gallery’s production team followed a sequence of instructions to calculate and determine the size, shape, and color of each sculpture, and fabricate the outcome. Fractal Dice will be on view at PaceWildenstein, 545 West 22nd Street, New York from September 5-October 4, 2008. The artist will be present at the opening on Thursday, September 4th from 6 to 8 p.m.
Fractal Dice uses a simple set of rules, in this case, a dice-based system, to achieve complex results. The initial state of each piece originates from a cube, and the method by which the piece evolves to its final state is by a cube, or more specifically, the roll of a die. Fourteen aluminum and plastic works will be on view in Fractal Dice.
By refraining from making aesthetic changes during the production process, the artist’s equation and idea remain pure. Nearly 30 years ago, Sol LeWitt proposed this prospect, “Since the functions of conception and perception are contradictory (one pre-, the other post-fact) the artist would mitigate his idea by applying subjective judgment to it. If the artist wishes to explore his idea thoroughly, then arbitrary or chance decisions would be kept to a minimum, while caprice, taste, and other whimsies would be eliminated from the making of the art. The work does not necessarily have to be rejected if it does not look well. Sometimes what is initially thought to be awkward will eventually be visually pleasing.”
For centuries, chance has been utilized on purpose in a multitude of disciplines, most notably music. “Musical Dice Games” (Musikalisches Würfelspiel) were popular in Europe in the 18th and 19th century when musicians scored a series of pre-composed measures and built a composition with them based on rolls of dice; one is attributed to Mozart from the 1780s. In the 20th century John Cage explored a form of aleatoric (“chance”) compositions, most famously in 4’33" where indeterminate elements—random noise from the audience and environment—became the work itself.
Keith Tyson’s approach, where a unified vision is generally determined but details are left to chance, has contemporary associations not only with Sol LeWitt but with choreographer Merce Cunningham and the late Robert Rauschenberg, whose work Synapsis Shuffle (1999) consists of 52 panel paintings with multiple possibilities for arrangements. Titles and numbers of each of the works in the group allude to a deck of cards; each new installation of the work requires a new combination of panels selected and made by a random group of 12 people.
In Fractal Dice each face of a cube is subjected to a simple modification based on six rolls of a die. For instance, the first roll determines color; the second roll determines the cubic intrusion or extrusion. Further rolls will determine the size and position on the original face of that new cube. The result is six new cubic elements sprouting off the original box. These new elements each have five new faces which are, in turn, subjected to the same rolls and rules. After this second generation, the sculpture is fabricated; multicolored cubic elements crisscross the structure cutting through and across each other.
Fractal Dice, as their name suggests, combine the necessary level of complexity (the rule-based system) with the element of unpredictability (the die) to generate, mechanically, a work of art. The hard-edges of the work in the exhibition belie their real association with organic systems such as trees, mountains, coastlines, and clouds. Both in Fractal Dice and in nature the presence of fractals and their infinite abilities to perpetuate self-similarity quantify their complex structures.
For 15 years, Keith Tyson (b. 1969, Ulverston, England), the 2002 Turner Prize recipient, has generated numerous bodies of work which probe the basic elements of creation. The pathways by which an object or image are transformed into something we recognize as art is the artist’s singular pursuit. Issues of causality, randomness and interaction of forces have all served as Tyson’s primary tools as he has created works as diverse as the History Paintings, Geno-Pheno Paintings, Large Field Array, Nature Paintings and the Art Machine iterations.
Keith Tyson’s work is in numerous museums and private collections worldwide. His paintings, drawings, and sculptures have been the subject of more than 20 solo exhibitions since 1995 and over 100 group shows since 1990. In 2005, Tyson was commissioned to create site-specific works for the lobby of Chicago’s Hyatt Center, designed by Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners. His two 40’ x 10’ abstract paintings, inspired by the 1977 Charles and Ray Eames film “The Powers of Ten,” address scale and complexity.
In addition to receiving the Turner Prize, Tyson received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Brighton (2005) and the ICA Arts and Innovation Award, London (1996). He studied at the Barrow-in-Furness College of Engineering (1984-1989) and the Carlisle College of Art (1989-90). He received his M.A. from the University of Brighton (1993).
Keith Tyson: Nature Paintings is currently on view at the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Cumbria, England through September 14, 2008. Tyson is part of Drawn from the Collection 1500–2008, the current group exhibition at Tate Britain’s Clore Gallery in London on view through February 22, 2009.
For more information on Keith Tyson: Fractal Dice please contact Jennifer Benz Joy, Public Relations Associate, at 212.421.3292 or via email at

Tags: John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Ray Eames, Sol LeWitt, Robert Rauschenberg, Keith Tyson