Big Art on Campus
With the show “OPEN/CLOSE: Westmont Graduate Exhibition,” Westmont College Graduate Art Students from Westmont step out and flex diverse expressions in the annual year-end exhibition in the campus’ Museum of Art.
“OPEN/CLOSE: Westmont Graduate Exhibition”
When: through May 4
Where: Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art, Westmont College, 955 La Paz Rd., in Montecito
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday
Information: 565-6162, www.westmontmuseum.org
Walking into the Westmont Museum of Art at present may cause a touch of dizziness, or giddy cognitive dissonance. In the long entryway gallery of the Museum’s spread, we are greeted by a small posse of mannequins, as if a surreal greeting party fashion show. These headless sentinels, though, deviate from normality by donning apparel made from unexpected materials, including skateboard wheels shavings and wood scraps.
Welcome to the world of graduate art student Isabel Sheehan, and the expectedly refreshing body of work contained in the annual Westmont Graduate Student Exhibition. This year’s model, called “OPEN/CLOSE: Westmont Graduate Exhibition.”
There is more than just audacity at work with Ms. Sheeran’s art (incidentally, this is not the first time that fashion design has been included in the end-of-school-year exhibition). Mixing her absurdist fashion scheme with emotional coding, the dress of wood scraps bears the title “Depression,” the skateboard wheels signifies “Anxiety” and another white puffy-stuffed gown, made entirely of polyester fill, goes by the title “Ease.” Once the pleasant joy buzzer startlement of a first impression, Ms. Sheehan’s fashion designs begin to take on deeper meaning.
Overall, the eight artists included in the 2019 graduate group tend to veer away from conventional art materials and genres, going his/her own way in terms of media and messages. More three-dimensional art appears than in past shows, as does art not on the wall or on the gallery floor but suspended from the ceiling, lending—shall we say–an airier air to the exhibition as a whole.
Lauren Koo’s “Headspace” assemblages, for example, hover above the ground in a corner of the Museum’s large main gallery, adding to the irrational, dislodged logic of the work. She calls the series “Headspace,” alluding to the physical spatial nature of the hanging art, and also the unsettled issues of identity contained in the mashed-up collections of “found pieces” by the artist–as Korean, American, student, artist, and self-described “adventurer.”
In an opposite corner of the main gallery, Bianca Moser shows scenes of painted, laser cut wood which tap into cartoon and fantasy milieus, each piece suspended and layered in space. She has grafted imagery of herself and friends onto fantastical figures, filtering self-searching through an imaginary visual language.
Then again, making art about the search for identity and purpose, in life and art, is a natural product of student art shows such as this one. Many of the artists here are artists on a certain brink, between student realities and work place realities, or transitional byways between academic stage. In Marissa Lin’s “Fractured Reality” series, the artist explores fractured identity through the process of tightly interwoven and reworked fragments of photographs, deconstructed and re-assembled into a cut-and-pasty tapestry. Fittingly, there is no clear or easy linear plan here, but possibilities abound.
For Amanda Zhang, the personal and cultural points of reference swing broadly, juxtaposing Chinese antiquity with signs and the contemporary world. Echoes of the Han Dynasty, 2,000 years ago, is cross-stitched with computer-generated imagery, in a long and ongoing cultural continuum.
Madeline Kirkpatrick’s printworks generate their own brand of juxtaposition, in a semi-abstract but slyly concrete pictorial strategy. Tumbling rectilinear forms (aka boxes) and shifting palettes make for a variations-on-theme set of impressions, print by print, with small, scrawled notes from to-do lists and other random everyday sources. Triviality mixes it up with the stuff and buzz of art, with a casual flair.
In this year’s unusually diverse media mix, the single example of old school oil-on-canvas art-making comes with new school attitude, in the form of Madison Cowan’s small, square image fragments. She zooms in on a smiling mouth, hands, a bespectacled eye, which become parts of a portrait, never adding up to a whole, but leaning heavily on powers of suggestion and inference.
One telling contrast along the tidy row of Cowan canvases be found in two adjacent paintings of hands: “Botticelli,” after the Renaissance painter, hangs next to the tattooed hands of “Pershing Park,” referring to the downtown Los Angeles park not far from homeless encampments.
Wending through the main gallery, illuminated by a large picture window looking out on sculpture in the Museum’s exterior, are lean, spindly and Mondrian-colored tubular sculptures by David Peterson. Fashioned from metal and wood, the softly twisting sculptures seem to represent an essential lightness and curiosity to be found in the works of “OPEN/CLOSE.”
Mr. Peterson seems to be, to tweak a metaphor, dancing about architecture, in a most delightful way.