Mason Gross’ WLCMBCK Show transported me to a welcoming space as an art student returning for her final year of undergraduate education. With a multitude of works from faculty/staff, graduate students, and others, I was reminded of the place I call my college. I became aware that I was training to become an artist, training to make work that will be shown in a gallery space, revealed in an exhibition, chosen by a curator.
At times I felt quite overwhelmed by the amount of work in the show, by the different types of mediums, and by the almost overcrowded stuffed in nature of some rooms. Everywhere I turned a new piece would be and some pieced I never noticed. On another note, however, I felt a sense of relief, seeing so many ways in which an artist can convey an idea, a message, a story. Each work possessed its own quality, its own touch, its own hand, and its own purpose. Without a certain theme, the show did not beg me to question just one subject, but instead many, about the nature of art, creating art, and the artist themselves. What does art do? What does it create in a gallery space? How does each piece communicate with the others around it? As I watched other students walk through the gallery I heard bits of conversations that seemed to spill out from the artwork, commenting and questioning what was really happening. Surprises also found their way into the exhibition space, lurking behind seemingly simple installations.
|Jim Toia, Dissolving Gardens|
|Lyda Craig, Untitled (Thinker), 1997|
Due to the number of works on the walls and the number of sculptures in the center, I had a hard time concentrating in the first, largest room; I found myself gravitating towards the walls, but only the left wall in particular. Even then, I could not seem to focus on all of the works, but only the ones in which I recognized the artist. This room became the least appealing to me as I continued around the gallery space. I felt beleaguered and somewhat disconnected from the work and the room. I could not find the intimacy I so desired. However, some rooms were particularly different. The first room on the left, though not a part of the WLCMBCK Mason Gross show, containing work by Jim Toia: Dissolving Gardens, begged me to sit, listen, watch, and wonder. As I heard the noises of the piece, watched the video screen, searched the space behind the screen, covered only by a transparent sheet, and inspected the wall of fungus, pinned and planned, I was struck by the surrounding nature of the work. I felt submerged in a living landscape. Both walls were monumental to my small stature, engulfing the room and submersing my senses. Sitting in the space, I felt an atmosphere created by controlled lighting, sounds that permeated the room, and a conversation that developed between the fungi and the video. The giant wall of mushrooms and other aspects of mycelium created a tangible ground, as if the wall was the floor on which life sprouted; the placement of each pin seemed organized, but not mechanical, speaking to the nature of the natural world instead of the manmade universe. Meeting the video, as it projected onto the space behind fungi, the two worlds combined into one—the gallery space and the space of the world around us. The second room on the left, dedicated to Lyda Craig brought forth new ideas, about a space in which power grew exponentially from one piece to the next. There was a sense of creation, passion, being, and excitement. Each painting, collage, sculpture, drawing, conveyed a sense of purpose, as if each brush stroke, each line mattered. Both Jim Toia and Lyda Craig’s work paved the way for the rest of the show, the welcoming back of students, artists, teachers, and a new year to learn, grow, and progress.
|Liv Aanrud, Hanging on the |
Moving through the rooms, Liv Aanrud’s Hanging on Mystic Whispers of the Supernatural Cave Shadows, connected me with both classroom learning and a contemporary movement that was happening outside of Rutgers University. With a flat layer of tan and yellow ochre in big bold shapes across the top of the painting, the colors trickle down as if a river flowing to the bottom of the painting surrounded by bright red on either side. The top part of the painting reminded me in a way of ancient symbols that were discussed in the paintings of Adolph Gottlieb in the 1940s. Though the bottom of the painting took me to a place of art in the now, thick, bright, textured, and almost random in nature. Many of the pieces in the show seemed to speak this similar language: a textured illogical assemblage of art. In Aanrud’s work, the compliment between the flatness of the top half of the canvas and the juicy chunkiness of the bottom half lends itself to a shift between the past and the present, was once was, and what is. Where the two colors meet the thick red seems to push against the flat tan colors, forcing paint to build up and form “v” like marks, ridges, and crevices. The painting is interrupted by marks of other colors, blues, greens, and darker variations, creating an abrupt but subtle disconnect from a two to three color piece.
|Marketa Klicova, I did not write about the fact..., 2010|
|Marketa Klicova, 2010|
Marketa Klicova’s installation: I did not write about the fact that for example it is not an even process and that I know the future declines punctually, stood out as it commanded the presence of the center of one room. Many people walked around it and questioned what meaning it was trying to illustrate. Using wood, paper, painted Plexiglas, wire, and a drawing instrument, a space is created, protruding into the areas around which it is situated. It drew me to the Liv Aanrud painting because of the installation’s movement around the room. A dialogue occurs between both the piece morphed out of the pedestal and the pieces of wood, paper, and glass cup of water, which seemed to make some viewers uncomfortable. I found it to be an explorative adventure, watching people interact and discovering unknown sections of the piece. Every aspect looked as though it came from the mind, as if an exercise in revealing what lies beneath these objects, what their interaction creates and how the space around them is affected.
|Catherine Huggarty, Untitled, 2010|
The entirety of the room interested me, connecting with all of my senses on multiple levels. Another piece, directly across from Klicova’s and adjacent to Aanrud’s painting, was Catherine Haggarty’s Untitled, in a way a more simple pen and gouache drawing of what looked like stacked paper, yet it drew me closer just as the other two pieces had. This work stood out in its own write because of the line work and quality and the complex simplicity of the image. A centered stack of paper lay on a flat plane, but yet, the crinkles and creases of the paper as it folded and fluttered together allowed for a moment of clarity. The piece struck me as straightforward, but quite masterful, similar to my experience with a Vija Celmins’ work. With a limited palette of a tan, yellowish hue flatly painted as a background and a lighter color for the paper, the black pen anchors the piece, outlining and shaping the paper as it ripples and creases. All of the pieces I took note of in the show had a confidence about them, and I think the show as a whole benefited from the solidarity and purposefulness of each piece. Especially in this room, I felt the presence of the artist, lurking beneath drawings, paintings, and installations, exposing art as a mode of exploration and experimentation, while still exuding confidence and power.
|Erin Dunn, Whoops, 2010|
The final piece I chose impacted me in ways I have only now been able to comprehend. When I originally saw the two paintings, I recognized the artist, the artist’s hand and style, gesture and technique, but what I did not notice was that the handling of canvases and their placement in the space brought me back to thinking about my work as a student. Erin Dunn’s Whoops, 2010, occurred to me as a flowing of artistic confidence, presence, and power. The mixed media paintings create abstract alternate realities, in a sense suspended in time, yet they feel as if they morph every second. As I think back to my own work I feel as though I often do not let ideas or techniques flow from me. I want to go back to that place where I can prolifically create works that speak to something I am constantly discovering, what I wish to experiment with and what I am interested in, and in the moment how I am experiencing the life around me. Making what seem like very conscious decisions with how to treat the sides and backs of canvases, how to apply the media to the surface and how to place the paintings in the gallery space, Dunn powerfully asserts her creative touch, opening up avenues in my work that I have not delved into. Passing her studio at times I have seen the sheer amount of work she creates, which ultimately leads to a confident defining and dynamic style. This year I will be working towards this goal.
Though the show had no organized theme, I found that the artists who submitted their work chose thoughtfully and passionately. The works conveyed a sense of the artist as a creator of a world, entirely their own. The more I write about the show the more I become enthralled in the experience of seeing work from so many people all at once, some that are just beginning their careers and others that have been working for much longer. At times I was overwhelmed, but ultimately I found myself in the work. I welcomed back the true and free artist in me.