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Hansen’s series of Quantum Paintings are inspired by a desire to manifest radical scientific paradigms through the discourse of painting and to give form to contemporary ideas about time and space that exist mainly as abstractions. The colors and textures of the paintings’ knitted surfaces—which range from loose to tight, raw to refined, thick to thin, chunky to fine—are determined using a mathematical algorithm. Hansen leaves the frame at least partly visible through the stitches, suggesting a physical continuum in which a painting exists in two, three, and even four dimensions: painting as portal.

These works are supported conceptually and historically by countless artistic innovations, including pigmentless “paintings,” such as Blinky Palermo’s Fabric Paintings and Rosemarie Trockel’s machine-knitted paintings, in which color and image are derived from the material of the support itself. The extension of the picture plane can be traced to Robert Rauschenberg, whose Combines series used everyday objects to push the picture plane out into the three-dimensional field of sculpture, creating a sense of continuity between the two. Similarly, in their wall-hung weavings and tapestries, artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Olga de Amaral, Sheila Hicks, and Ritzi and Peter Jacobi have demonstrated how a seemingly two-dimensional surface can become three-dimensional, even architectural. With his characteristically humble approach to materials, Georg Herold also played with these ideas, using elaborately crocheted doilies suspended in oversized wood frames. Recognizing yarn’s capacity to denote a line, a plane, or a volume has precedents in artists such as Fred Sandback, who used a single strand of yarn to define and articulate three-dimensional spaces within a gallery, and before him Elsi Giauque, who used myriad strands to similar ends.