Points of View - Power Objects: The Future Has A Primitive Heart
Written by MFA student Aj Cooke, Points of View explores local gallery exhibitions in order to spark an open and accessible exchange of ideas and nurture collective intelligence about the art being created and displayed in our community.
Power Objects: The Future Has a Primitive Heart
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA)
March 14 – May 15, 2015
Some might concede that at its primal level, art is communication, however it is displayed or annotated. The ability to intentionally create something that has meaning to yourself or to others denotes influence, or as the UICA’s newest exhibition states – power.
The robustly titled “Power Objects: The Future Has A Primitive Heart” is a collection of work that is both cohesive and ranged in terms of styles that consider the age old process of visual communication. The exhibition does include work you might stereotypically picture when thinking of the word “primitive,” such as fleshy bare figures, some variation of human evolution, and a reference to Venus of Willendorf. However, the images that embody the concept of communicating and connecting most effectively are not the reexaminations of contemporary knowledge, but rather those that consider our current culture as primitive.
"Being Here" by Ben Foch and Chelsea Cup
In order to begin looking, I thought about what it means to be primitive. Defined via Google (because you asked, right?), the word means “relating to, denoting, or preserving the character of an early stage in the evolutionary or historical development of something.”. Likewise, Power Objects’ statement positions the exhibition under a rather broad umbrella of personal expression and communication: “Since the dawn of human consciousness we have had the desire for a dazzling feeling of richness, for the feeling of wonder at the world and the experience of life. Art is the foundation for communication among individuals of this feeling of wonder.”
So under this general premise, I observed the exhibition’s stereotypical representations of archaic expression, designed to reference a long lost culture or prehistoric past, as well as more technically well rendered pieces that take a stab at our current society (here’s looking at you, wonderfully painted likeness of an iMac packaging box). I’ll admit, I was a bit underwhelmed, but not surprised when faced with such an ambiguous explanation for an exhibition. However, days later, I am still thinking about a couple works that I feel are worth taking the time to consider in person, one of which is Molly Zuckerman-Huartung’s mixed media painting “Widow.”
"Widow" by Molly Zuckerman-Huartung
A bedsheet stretched and splattered with latex, enamel, and spray paint, “Widow” quite literally displays layers upon layers of expression in the form of an artifact with a variety of information to traverse. The painting is abstracted to promote viewer subjectivity, yet the glimpses of representation pull the reader back from total self-directed meaning to consider what is trying to be communicated by the source.
With stuck-on three-dimensional objects signifying evidence of a civilization lived (much like another work in the exhibition: “Being Here” by Ben Foch & Chelsea Culp), the intention in “Widow” seems less contrived and more about the particular arrangement of the objects to communicate meaning to another. I found myself searching throughout the composition, reading both text and cyclical mark making in a quest to understand the intent of the author. Instead, I became personally invested in the work in terms of bringing in my own individual context which, plainly speaking in my loud opinion, makes a successful piece of art.
"Arete" by Wendy White
Also, many thanks and kudos to Wendy White for “Arete,” an acrylic on canvas visual. The piece is a personal favorite because I don't think I fully understand it; I'm still thinking about the concept, and had to research further after I left the gallery. It is visually and conceptually complex, and therefore successful. That is worth a visit to the UICA all on its own.