Time by John Covert

Time, 1919

John Covert

Geometric measurements, a compass, and mathematical formulas are superimposed upon primitive designs rendered in upholstery tacks in this assemblage, or three-dimensional collage of objects. Critics and scholars have been trying to decode this work for almost a century — it’s a clever puzzle through which the artist posed larger questions about the aesthetics and science of his day. He used an algebraic formula, previously identified with Einstein’s theory of relativity, as a kind of cryptographic formula for this complex work.

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Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven. Gift of Collection Société Anonyme