REVIEW: RC Student Studio Arts Invitational Opening Reception

On a busy Friday the 13th, the Residential College’s art gallery opened its doors to show off several lucky students’ work. Granted, this exhibition is invitational and students were encouraged to drop off their works by their own hands, but we’re all pretty lucky to have this opportunity. All work from this exhibition is done by students taking RC studio arts courses and who have elected to show some of their work: ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, photography, and drawing. Individual works are not labeled, though a placard listing each contributing student rests among the artwork.

Even after four years at UM and several classes in East Quad, I’ve somehow never been inside this small gallery. It felt roomier than I expected, in a way that maximized the intimacy of the space. While I roamed around alongside a few other students, I still felt that I had plenty of time and space to admire the art on display.

Prints and drawings color the long wall and give it life. Several pieces were more political than others, though holistically mixing textures and adding to said life. A piece with a person stretching to reach their foot says “Let me live” beside a different piece shouting “The first pride was a riot” in stark contrast; a piece with an image of a gun and “Never again” sits above one of a mountain. I liked seeing how the creative minds of classmates look beside each other and how the individual pieces work into the whole. Despite so many different approaches, it all worked so well together.

From there, the gallery moves into sculpture and ceramics. A series of patterned blocks make a nice juxtaposition with a smooth and more organic-looking shape. Surrounding it, wire sculptures make shadows on the walls, reminding me of various works by Alexander Calder and their placements in other galleries. Mixed-media sculptures rest in the middle of the room: one being a sculpted human heart held up by wires attached to a three-dimensional frame.

Opposite the prints, ceramic vases and series give the walls texture among another color print and several black and white photos. I especially liked the glaze techniques on the smooth vases and the patterns that the artists were able to create — and I really loved the leaf patterns on one of them, with 3D ceramic leaves crawling around its rim. It was calming to view.

One of the walls of this gallery is a large window, so people can glance at art while walking past. Between that window and the rest of the gallery, exhibition space was definitely maximized by adding other walls. I liked this because of the chance given to see work during its closing hours: different types of work are displayed together, ceramic and photo in particular, giving passersby a glimpse into what the rest of the gallery has to offer.

My own work is on display as well (photos and poems teamed together). I’m taking the black and white photography course this semester, so I recognized some of the photos and series of photos from my peers. I haven’t been able to see the other section’s photos until this exhibit, and I enjoyed seeing what they’ve been coming up with for certain projects. Their displays both juxtaposed and mirrored the prints coloring the opposite wall: several different artists with different approaches/subjects adding to one array that still works holistically.

Part of me wished that each piece was individually labeled with titles and/or artist statements so I could see what some of the artists had conceptualized, but I also liked that they stood alone. This element truly added to the idea that art can have as many meanings as people who see it, and sometimes it’s fun to make your own thoughts separate from what the artist wants you to think.

This exhibition of student work is on display until the April 27th, so you have plenty of time to go see these wonderful pieces! The gallery is always free, and open M-F from 10am-5pm. If you’d like to one day have your work shown in an exhibit like this, consider taking an RC studio arts course. Some seats are open to non-RC students.

And, for those who also have their work exhibited — truly great work! I hope you’re as excited as I am to have something original shown in a nice gallery space.

PREVIEW: RC Student Studio Arts Invitational Opening Reception

Maybe you’ve been taking studio art classes in the Residential College, or maybe you have friends (such as yours truly) who have, or maybe you’ll be around East Quad at some point this month with art on the mind. Maybe you’ve been itching to see student photography, ceramics, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture all in the same little space.

Lucky for you, the RC Art Gallery will be full of student work from various RCARTS courses from the 13th-27th of April, completely free to browse. The gallery and student exhibition will open with a reception on Friday, the 13th of April from 4-6pm — also free and with refreshments! The gallery is just to the right of the East University entrance when you first walk in and is usually open M-F 10am-5pm, special exception for this event.

Date: Friday, April 13th, 2018
Time: 4-6pm
Location: East Quad’s RC Art Gallery

*Featured image credit: “Date Night” by Henry Schreibman

PREVIEW: Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater at the UMMA

1960_1_156The UMMA is currently displaying a collection of prints of Japanese Kabuki theater from their own collection.  Kabuki theater was popular during 18th and 19th century Japan, however it continues to draw viewers even today. These prints were of the most famous and influential Kabuki actors, who amassed many fans rabid for information about their private lives, much as fans behave towards their favorite celebrities now.  In order to sate that hunger, artists would create these colorful and dynamic wood-bock prints which often became wildly popular.

The exhibit will be open until January 29th, so make sure to swing by before it closes!  Tomorrow, Dec 4th, there will be a gallery talk from 2-3 PM for those interested in getting a more guided tour of the exhibition.


REVIEW: Witch Exhibition in the UMMA

Got a minute? Gather a few of your friends together and then tell them to each draw a picture of a unicorn. Chances are they will all include a horse with a mane and a horn sticking out of its forehead – plus or minus a few stars and rainbows. Next, tell your friends to draw a picture of a witch. Suddenly, we have a whole spectrum of possibilities. Is she old or young? Wrinkly skin with craggily nose and warts? Is she wearing a hat? Is she a peasant in Salem, Massachusetts? Does she ride a broom or stay on the ground with her cat and her cauldron? Does she look like Hermione or Luna? Really, the only constant is that she’s a she. It is quite remarkable that the witch, like the unicorn, is an imaginative construct. And yet, we have no collective idea of what she looks like!

I’m in the course here at U-M called “The History of Witchcraft.” One of our assignments was to visit the U-M Museum of Art and check out their limited-time collection of “Witch” art. The small collection of only 15 pieces is located down the stairs in the basement of the modern Frankel Family Wing. The collection mostly displays printed etchings by Francisco de Goya. These etchings are a part of his larger work, “Los Caprichos,” which mostly serve as a satirical medium for Goya’s criticism of 18th century Spanish society. (This video by the San Jose Museum of Art describes wonderfully Goya’s Caprices in more detail. You can even click on each individual etchings to learn more about the hidden meanings.)

I can’t show pictures here because of copyright issues; all the more reason to go see them yourself! But I can describe to you a few that really caught my attention: either because they were so disturbing or because they simply confounded me. The collection ranges from Goya’s Early Modern prints to 20th-century abstract drawings and photography. One of my absolute favorites was “The Witch with the Comb” by Paul Klee. I loved how it was not obvious that the drawing was of a witch.

To me, the woman immediately struck me as an abstract 1920’s flapper rendition of the Queen of Hearts. Her hair was cut in an asymmetrical bob, she wore a shawl and jewelry, and her cocktail dress even had a fringe trim. She definitely looked like an upper-class woman, or at least, like a middle-class woman attempting to look like an aristocrat. Her face was stern with a straight across eyebrow and a pinched little chin. The strange thing about the woman was that her arms were drawn to look like arrows, pointing downward (“towards HELL!” I joked). Why did Paul Klee choose to disfigure this noble woman? The lack of hands dehumanized her, while drawing your attention down to the bottom of the picture. Now you notice her shoes – prototypical ‘witch’ shoes with a curled tip.  Is this woman secretly a witch? Klee reminds us again of the idea that anyone can be a witch. All you have to do is call her one, which he has done in the title. We read in class that many witches could transform themselves into more attractive, humanistic women. I guess even witches can make mistakes sometimes and leave their identities exposed to those who notice the small details.

You could easily spend an hour staring at these 15 pieces, which seem to have more significance when brought together in one glass case. You can contrast and compare, noticing witchy details that are marked in this print and not that. Why did he choose to obscure her leg here? What is he trying to hide? Take a friend and ask each other questions. Start with a simple: what is going on here? I promise you – that will be enough to keep your mind active.

I believe that UMMA will keep this Witch Exhibition up for another week or two. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see how real artists have attempted to portray witches in their work.  Maybe your witch drawing will be more similar than you ever expected.