The Short Exhibition at the RU Art Museum, May 13 - June 13

The Short Exhibition at the RU Art Museum, May 13 - June 13

The Short Exhibition at the RU Art Museum, May 20 June 15 Welcome to the Short Exhibition short because it was only up for a few weeks and it was a small show. Planned by a museum studies class, the show consisted of works chosen from the permanent collection but not on display very often. We had a simple theme for the show: that artists can work in a variety of media and palettes to tell a story, and usually that story is both subjective and a response to the world that the artist lives in. We selected works that were completely abstract, that were figural, that were only in black and white,

and some that were saturated with color. That was our point in the end, medium and color do matter. Thats how the story is told in art. Walking into the museum, probably the first thing that caught your attention was the pair of paintings on the far wall. Mostly primary colors, they seem to make a diptych and it isnt hard to see where they join, although at the same time, its also easy to see how they dont quite connect. At first glance, these completely abstract paintings might make you think of the kind of art works you see on the walls in big offices. But theres a slight twist to this pair which helps to make up for the lack of personalization in the way these two officey paintings were made. Both can be divided symmetrically by a line from the upper

right hand corner extending diagonally down to the lower left hand. Its an odd decision because putting the two paintings next to each other, as the composition also suggests, turns the movement on its side and makes the composition almost static. Turning to the right, you encountered a completely different experience. All of the works on this wall are in black and white, using different printing media. And all of them are very self-contained and representational works. The first three fall into a style I think of as southern gothic the figures and actions are monstrous and grotesque, densely packed into the print, but the monsters we see are not the gargoyles you might find on a Gothic cathedral these are people,

doing ordinary things but in not very ordinary ways. The details are impressive and the prints want you to look at them and try to untangle the mixture of scenes and images that refer to modern life. The fourth print falls into this category although in this case, the grotesque qualities come less from the way in which the figures are drawn and more from the very readable scene we face. The last work on this wall is a bit different. Also a black and white print, this one uses words; from a distance, the text may appear to be shading and landscape and clouds but up close, you can see that its text and it can be read. The artist calls himself a visionary, and compared to the other four works on this wall, this one is the only one with a visionary theme and the only one which tries to tell us how we should read it and what we should read.

Continuing around the room, we come to a wall that simultaneously tries to tell us what to think while it avoids doing so. The first picture on the left is a photograph of a child with a gun. Did the photographer simply happen upon this child and take a picture of a moment in time, a scary moment, no less? Or did she know the child and ask her to hold the gun? In either case, the photograph is disturbing and the photographer succeeds in her goal of making us question childhood toys and fantasies. She also succeeds in showing us that even with a medium like photography, and a realistic image, the act of bringing us up close to the scene doesnt take away from the mystery and subjective quality of a work of art. The other three works on this wall seem to be about a similar mixture of threat, safety, and the unknown. Unlike the first wall we examined, although these are more abstract than the second wall we looked at, they hit us with a raw and almost violent impact

related to events we cant really determine. All four works on this wall suggest explosions of some kind but those explosions may or may not be literal and real. A lot is left to the viewers mind even though the artist has made him or herself especially present in each work, through the choice of subject matter, through the manner of applying paint, and through the lack of specific narrative. The works on the next wall do this as well but in this case, they move away from the predominantly black and white palettes of the front wall and use color and

recognizable shapes and forms to create a strong sense of movement. In one we see dancers in various positions, or is it one dancer, reflected in a mirror from different angles? Once again, the answer matters less than the sense of rhythm and the puzzle the artist has created for us to look at.

The dancers make an interesting contrast with the Huichol yarn paintings in the center. These have a quality that at first sight might seem simple and almost like a crayon drawing but when you look closely, you realize these are

made from glued yarn. You also realize that you probably dont know what most of the symbols and figures stand for some are people, some look like trees and natural elements, but for the most part, the stories these two

works tell are as mysterious and elusive as the black and white graphic works on the walls opposite them. In all cases, the manner of telling the story may be more important than our ability to precisely understand its meaning. The stories do matter, but these are pictorial works and the artist wants us to lose ourselves in the images.

This small show of large paintings was curated by students in ARTH430, Museum Studies II: Ciara Banks Marissa Clark Rebecca Gaunt Jamie Graham Holli Mahala with a little help from their professor Dr. Barris.

The class wants to thank Dr. Arbury, the director of the museum, for his assistance with viewing the collection and gathering information, Kala Marshall, for letting us in more than once, and Dr. Bay, who creatively and graciously installed the show. And finally, thanks to Kim Cochran who helped as she always does with everything else.

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