Young artists outshine their CofC mentors 

Spot the Student

In this colorful, imaginative group exhibition, Redux is filled with new paintings, videos, and multimedia work by artists from the College of Charleston.

The School of the Arts’ nine tenured professors have each chosen a student to mentor through the process of exhibiting work in a real-world gallery; that way the students get to fly in public without the safety net of academe. They have to submit professional photos, artist statements, and prepare their art for public viewing. It puts a sharp vocational angle on their educational development, with their professors marking them as one to watch.

Each mentor also has a new piece in the show, making this the only occasion when all of them have exhibited in one relatively small space. It’s a great way to compare their different styles, from unfussy black and white photography to deeply personal signature paintings. The professors have taken pains not to overshadow their students, pushing the rookies to the fore. Viewers can play “spot the students,” and they may find the answers surprising.

One of the first, most striking artworks they’ll see in the show is Herb Parker’s “Father & Son” sculpture, which comes in two pieces. The father is represented by a head, mounted bust-like on a pedestal. He looks world-weary, perhaps because he has no arms to hold his baby. The son is a baby-doll mask with tree roots, a heart, and two hands. This baby tree is imbued with a strong sense of movement, as if the roots are enabling the son to walk. His innocence and ignorance contrasts with his all-too-aware papa, and the hard pedestal is very different from the soft and natural son’s limbs.

Lauren Moore’s “Situation Ossification” is made from steel and polypropylene landscaping fabric, with lights shining through its thin white skin. This sculpture hangs from the ceiling like a malformed set of giant udders, one so low that it’s close to the floor. Visitors can walk around or through this upside down installation.

John Hull’s “Circe,” an expressive painting of a topless woman on a beach with her dog, is well matched with George Davis’ untitled landscapes. Although they’re darker and more abstract than Hull’s piece, the colors and styles still complement each other. Davis’ best painting shows the sun illuminating marshland, casting yellow reflections on the water.

Sara Frankel’s untitled oil on linen painting includes red roots or intestines lurking beneath the surface of a lake or river, while swimmers’ heads are seen above the water. The concept is striking but the scene looks static, with little sense of movement. Maddie Reyna’s mixed media collages on cardboard also have good ideas, with faces peering through veils — a mouth here, an eye there. Maybe they’re obscured self portraits of a shy artist. But the shapes aren’t complex enough and the pieces look flimsy, as if they’d fall apart with the slightest sneeze. 

Other art in the show is by Barbara Duval and Marshall Thomas, Cliff Peacock and Shelly Smith, Michael Phillips and Sarah Haynes, photographic artists Michelle Van Parys and Matthew Bowers, Steve Johnson and Samantha Theall, and video artists Jarod Charzewski and Liz Vaughan. They’re all confident and talented. The students seem more fearless than the professors; while some of the mentors rely on old tropes — some of the new work is indistinguishable from previous pieces — the newbies’ efforts are always lively.

With 18 artists displaying their work, 1 x 1 is too much of a grab bag to work as a cohesive show. Large and impossible to ignore, the sculptures dominate the space. But the black and white images are too effective to be lost in the mix. Executive Director Karen Ann Myers (with some assistance from Charzewski) has done a good job of juxtaposing landscapes and abstracts with figurative work, color and monochrome, professor and student without making the associations too rigid or obvious.

1 x 1 fittingly highlights the work being done at the School of the Arts, currently celebrating two decades of success. The CofC shouldn’t need an anniversary to justify doing this again; it’s a productive way to boost the esteem and professional careers of the students.


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