The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

The Aesthetic Code: Unraveling the Secrets of Art

Blanche Lazzell  Nude Study, Hans Hofmann Class Summer '38, 1938

November 12, 2010 – April 10, 2011

This exhibition explores the basic math and design principles that artists have utilized for centuries. It is designed to help the layperson develop a vocabulary to approach unfamiliar works of art. By learning about the basic elements of art and seeing how the application of these elements enhances a work of art, the visitor will be able to recognize these principles and perhaps have some insight into art that otherwise seems incomprehensible.

The exhibition starts with line, space, shape, and value — and then moves on to more complicated principles such as time, balance, movement, perspective, golden ratios, tessellations, fractals, color and optics. Illustrative examples from the UAMA’s own collection make these concepts come alive. Along the way, visitors will experience spinning a color wheel, drawing with a camera obscura, watching colors separate into different depths with Chromadepth © glasses, and learning how light affects the color of an object.


On opening weekend (November 12-14), the maestra Madonnara (street artist) Melanie Stimmell will create a 3-d anamorphic work in extreme perspective on the Museum floor that will remain on view throughout the exhibition. To learn about Melanie’s work, visit her websites:

Watch Melanie Stimmell create a 3-d anamorphic work in extreme perspective on the Museum floor

UANews interview with Curator Lauren Rabb on The Aesthetic Code

A full color catalog of the exhibition will be available in our Museum Gift Shop. 10% discount for UAMA members.

The production of the catalog is underwritten by John Wells and The Process Museum.