October 10, 2013
The Wellin Museum’s latest exhibit, A Sense of Space, showcases a wide range of interpretations of personal and shared space. Using a variety of media, this group of contemporary artists demonstrates how discovering a particular place can leave a mark upon the discoverer. Whether through in-depth exploration or memory, these artists show how capturing a sensory experience is both individual and shared across cultures.
One artist in the exhibit, Casey Ruble, transforms everyday scenes into colorful paper collages, creating individual narratives in each piece. In one collage, a tire sits in the grass in front of an aquamarine and brown-colored fence. The top of a large truck peeps over the fence and one cannot help but wonder what lies beyond. All of Ruble’s collages are simple, but their simplicity and two-dimensionality focus one’s attention on a singular moment in time. Now, as I walk around campus, I find myself imagining various buildings and sidewalks as paper cutouts. This in some respect, is what Ruble’s work is meant to do—encourage the audience to look at their environment through a new perspective.
The layout of the exhibit played into the larger role of understanding place. Coco Fusco’s short film, The Empty Plaza is screened in a slightly enclosed black box that sits in the middle of the floor. Apart from convenience, the confinement of the screening room acts as a space of its own that goes well with the film’s subject: the emptiness of the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, Cuba, a place once important during the Cuban Revolution. The desolation and insignificance of the Plaza shows how in even our modern society, public spaces can follow trends. What appeals to me in Fusco’s film is the mixed feelings of sadness and nostalgia that are strongly conveyed by the nearly empty Plaza.
In one of the most unique works shown in the exhibit, South Korean artist Hong Seon Jang superimposes clear tape on different colored chalkboards to create forests. Jang innovatively uses ordinary objects to create a detailed piece of art, drawing the images from memory. His geometric creations appear as virtual forests fit for a cyber world that make one wonder what our world will look like in the future. This man-made product portrays nature with the notion of increased connectivity through technology, which shows how vulnerable our natural environment is to modernization. It is a worrisome concept, but a relevant global concern.
The work of Almagul Menlibaeva, Yinka Shonibare MBE and Nina Katchadourian adds a unique element to the exhibit. Though all evocative in subject, few of the bodies of art are visually arresting as theirs.
Jade Townsend’s installation, “Rugged Individualism,” also stands out, perhaps because of its physical presence in the exhibit. Hanging off a doorway, Townsend’s installation involves a succession of different colored arches with differently decorated walls. The feel of each “home,” represented by each doorway, varies slightly. But the IKEA products used to decorate each space demonstrate that “personal touches” to homes are now mass-produced that creates a de-personalized personal space. Artists and other free spirits often criticize the lack of personality in suburban homes, but Townsend offers an amusing viewpoint on how even in this generation, the archetype of suburbia continues to exist.
Overall, A Sense of Space explores a concept that a wide audience can appreciate. The Wellin Museum has put together a modern, thought-provoking exhibit that students of Hamilton and other members of the community unfamiliar to art, can ponder over and perhaps become inspired by to study in their own personal and public spaces.