Study of Distortions; Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space-Map Projections: The Cube

Agnes Denes (American, born 1931)
Watercolor, gouache and ink on graph paper and mylar
17 x 14 in. (43.2 x 35.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Sarah-Ann and Werner H. Kramarsky, 1983
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© Agnes Denes
Not on view
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Agnes Denes was educated in Sweden and the United States. She began her career as a painter, but has since expanded her activities to encompass a wide range of media, including drawing, printmaking, photography, site-specific sculpture, and environmental art. Although she does not fit neatly into any specific school, her philosophical approach and grid motifs align her with Conceptual Art and Minimalism. This intriguing drawing reflects her characteristic application of science to artistic expression and her concern for aesthetic presentation. While the viewer may not fully comprehend the intellectual content of her image, he or she can appreciate its beautiful execution and unusual analysis of form and space. Study of Distortions: Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space is typical of the topographical motifs Denes had been producing since the late 1960s. Here, she offers an alternate perception of space and time by projecting a section of the globe onto a cubic framework. The drawing is actually made up of two pieces-a sheet of graph paper underneath on which a map is painted with watercolor, and a clear plastic leaf on which a cube is precisely penned and gridded. As the artist states, she is "working with a paradox, defining the elusive, visualizing the invisible, communicating the incommunicable…" Such projects were never meant to be realized in three dimensions, but their visionary images spur us to think about the world in a new way and contemplate our place in it.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Agnes Denes '78
Sarah-Ann and Werner H. Kramarsky, New York (until 1983; their gift to MMA)

New York. Rosa Esman Gallery. "Imaginary Worlds," December 9, 1978–January 6, 1979, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980," September 13, 2017–January 14, 2018, no. 32.

Lisa M. Messinger in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, p. 108, ill., identifies this drawing as the first work by the artist to enter the MMA's collection.

Ricardo D. Barreto. "Sculptural Conceptualism: A New Reading of the Work of Agnes Denes." Sculpture 18 (May 1999), p. 21.

Kelly Baum in Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950–1980. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2017, pp. 48, 212, colorpl. 32.