Talking about Art at the Gallery

In my time as a student and as a teaching assistant, one thing I noticed again and again is how intimidating talking about art can be. When questioned, many of us often freeze unwilling to speak up for fear of saying something wrong. However, graduate students from the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland have been trying to change just that by producing a video series entitled “Talking about Art.”Talkling about Art

The first videos in the series tackled some basic-but-formidable topics such as line, abstraction, and perspective. In the next set of videos, the graduate students asked their professors AND the Gallery to get involved. (And we are very happy that they did!) They utilized objects from our collection to create videos featuring UMD professors talking about our artwork.

In order to address that fear that many of us experience when standing in front of a piece, the graduate students gave their professors a challenge: explain works outside of their area of expertise. In this sense, students (and all viewers) could understand that once one is given the correct tools- a trained eye, a practiced set of vocabulary, an understanding of materials and techniques, and confidence, talking about art is not intimidating at all. In fact, it allows for a greater understanding of the artwork, yourself, and your fellow art admirers.

The professor featured in the above video, Alicia Volk, is a Japanese specialist, and the work of art she discusses in a 20th-century American piece. Professor Beryl Bland, a pre-Columbian specialist, tackles a piece of African art in the video below. We are thrilled with the outcome, and we look forward to future videos!

-Madeline L. Gent

Modernization: A Preservation of the Past

The following post was guest written by Darcy McConnell, an active member of the undergraduate Art History Association. The Art History Association recently utilized artworks from The Art Gallery’s permanent collection to re-curate a space in the Art-Sociology Building. Their work is now on display on the fourth floor of the building in the Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture. In the post, McConnell briefly details the curatorial experience of her and her fellow University of Maryland students.

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Juxtaposing the old and the new. Photo by Quint Gregory.

Modernization: A Preservation of the Past
An Exhibition Curated by the Art History Association

Throughout the past semester, the Art History Association has had the exciting opportunity to work with art history graduate student Madeline Gent to re-curate the spaces of the Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture and its graduate lounge in the Art-Sociology Building. Over the course of the past few months, we have attempted to select works that are both aesthetically pleasing and meaningful. For the grad student lounge, we have chosen William Gropper’s The Senate (1936 – 1942), Joe Jones’s Lay O’ The Land (1909 – 1963), and an untitled work by Phil Band; for the Collaboratory wall, we have selected Alfred de Giorgio Crimi’s Collage, flanked by Risaburo Kimura’s Tokyo and Vienna; and for the Collaboratory bookshelf, we have chosen two items from the University’s African Art Collection: a Colonial Figure and Gelede Mask, both made by unknown artists.

To begin the curating process, the members of the AHA—both collectively and individually—searched through the University Art Gallery’s permanent collection online. Together we brainstormed potential ideas and curatorial visions, and individual members proposed selections. After narrowing down the possibilities, we met with Ms. Gent to view the works in person at the Gallery, where we discussed our options and made our final choices.

The AHA students hanging the pieces in the Graduate Student Lounge. Photo by Quint Gregory.

AHA students hang pieces in the Graduate Student Lounge. Photo by Quint Gregory.

The works in the graduate student lounge were curated by Zoe Copeman and are taken from the Martin W. Brown Collection. Flanking William Gropper’s work are Lay O’ The Land and Phil Band’s untitled work, both of which represent, in subdued hues and with quiet feeling, the average people of America—those whose lives are deeply affected by the actions and choices of those such as the central figure portrayed in The Senate, a brighter and more cartoon-like depiction of a politician whose noise and bluster are doing very little to change the lives of America’s average joe. In choosing to display these images, we hope to encourage critical thinking and send a message about power structures within American society that continue to this day.

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Students hang Vienna by Risaburo Kimura. Photo by Quint Gregory.

The Collaboratory, curated by Matthew Forster, now houses the works of Risaburo Kimura, which hang to the right and left of Alfred de Giorgio Crimi’s Collage. Crimi’s work, bridging the two vibrant Kimura cityscapes of Tokyo and Vienna, almost resembles a passport, an association reinforced by the artist’s decision to use real postage stamps along with the watercolor paints. To us, these works together represent interconnectivity between cultures—the importance of cultural exchange, and the advancements in technology that make such exchange increasingly easy. We also believe that this selection reflects the purpose of the Collaboratory as a place where people can communicate ideas and facilitate dialogue while studying the past.

The new selection of objects from the African collection.

The new selection of objects from the African collection. Photo by Quint Gregory.

The figures from the African Art Collection, chosen by Sophie Huget, however, represent another kind of relationship between cultures, and were chosen partly to foster thought about the disparities in power and historical developments that have shaped the interconnected world represented by the three works on the Collaboratory wall. Two of the objects—the Gelede Mask and Sowei Helmet Mask—celebrates women and power, and represents objects that are used to this day in Yoruba and Sande societies respectively. The Colonial Figure, on the other hand, represents an African man dressed in Western clothing: arms pinned to his sides, waist cinched by a belt, and adorned with a tie, a collared shirt, and a jacket. This figure is not representative of his culture, and is not meant to be put to any use; rather, he is representative of colonial power structures. In choosing these figures, we hope to not only encourage appreciation of multiple cultures, but to highlight the difference between productive cultural exchange and more problematic forms of interconnectivity, such as forced assimilation and cultural appropriation.

The opportunity to curate the Collaboratory and graduate student lounge has been amazing. We have gained valuable experience, and have loved working together to make our mark in this way. It is our hope that our selections will provoke thought and the exchange of ideas, and that through these curated works, we may foster the intellectual development that both spaces are meant to facilitate.

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The Art Gallery’s Taras Matla was on site to supervise and advise our undergraduate curators. Photo by Quint Gregory.

– Darcy McConnell, University of Maryland Class of 2016
Art History Association 2015

2015 MFA Thesis Exhibition

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UMD students viewing Hackett’s work from different angles.

The last show of the academic year, as it is every year at The Art Gallery, is the annual MFA thesis exhibition. It is always interesting to see what our neighbors in the building are up to, but it is also bittersweet. These talented artists are moving on to bigger and better things. Before they go, however, they leave us with their final statement as graduate students: The 2015 MFA Thesis Exhibition.

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Hackett and his work

This year’s exhibition features the work of artists Rob Hackett, Aydin Hamami, and Steve Williams. When visitors first enter The Art Gallery, they are greeted by Hamami’s work to the right, William’s to the left, and Hackett’s in the back gallery. For Hackett, it was important to alter the physical space of the Gallery and the experience of the viewer, and one piece consumes the entirety of the back gallery. It consists of wood blocks suspended on metal cables attached to wall brackets. The contrast of the warm wood blocks and the hard metal cables and brackets give the work both a heavy and light feeling. It reads gentle and delicate like a summer hammock swaying softly, as well as hard and heavy like the elements of a construction site ready for a build. The latter reference to urban life was influenced by the artist’s time in Pittsburgh, a city known for its numerous bridges.

Hackett invites and encourages his audience to walk in and around the work and to absorb it from differing vantage points. Visitors can be seen stepping in and around cables as they attempt to navigate the space without disturbing the piece.

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Hamami and his work

The inspiration of city life and urban space continues throughout the exhibition. In Aydin Hamami’s work, the artist utilizes various non-traditional materials to create large abstract paintings. Most notably Hamami’s use of tar plays upon viewer’s expectations and perceptions of a painting. The tar, shiny and heavy against the warm colors of the painting, is reflective. As the viewer gets close to examine the work, they unexpectedly come across their own partial and distorted image

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Hamami and his work.

The tar is but one of the many layers of materials in Hamami’s works. As a result, each piece has a depth of color and texture, but the overlay of strong materials such as the tar often disrupts this feeling. The piece once again is flat, a two-dimensional and hard-edged painting. In the Artist Round Table, Hamami noted that his work is often about the process, in particular his discovery and experimentation with new and unconventional materials. Each work reveals Hamami’s intimacy with his materials, and his hand is always evident allowing the subject of his pieces to toe the line between abstract form and artistic process.

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Williams and his work

The third artist featured in the MFA show is Steve Williams. Williams’s work is a series of large photographs of everyday miniscule objects enlarged and centered on a white background. These small objects were collected by Williams on the walk from his home in Takoma Park to UMD’s College Park campus. After Williams had collected a series of objects, he began to photograph them.

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Williams and his work

In the Gallery space the photographs take on religious and sacred connotations due to their scale, lack of context, rich color, and method of display. This aspect can most literally be seen in the works featuring religious imagery such as the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Shroud of Turin. More surprisingly, however, it is the works that lack these overt religious references that appear the most iconic. An enlarged piece of small, blue plastic becomes monumental through Williams’s process, and its simple form becomes totemic.

Each artists’s work is different from his peers, but all manage to speak to one another through their interest in space and form. If you want to see the exhibition, stop by The Art Gallery by May 22nd. The Gallery is open from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm Mondays through Fridays and select Saturdays.

-Madeline L. Gent, Graduate Assistant, The Art Gallery

Streams of Being at Maryland Day

The Art Gallery recently hosted the exhibition Streams of Being: Selections from the Art Museum of the Americas. Curated by Assistant Professor of Latin American Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Abigail McEwen, and University of Maryland graduate students, the exhibition featured forty-five artists from sixteen countries across the Americas. To commemorate and celebrate this unique exhibition and collaboration between the Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States and The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland, various University of Maryland graduate students and undergraduate students have taken over our blog. Below, in the final post of the series, UMD senior Sibia Saragan recaps The Art Gallery’s event on Maryland Day, an annual campus-wide celebration that highlights UMD’s innovation, creativity and academic excellence for the public. 

Streams of Being at Maryland Day
Sibia Sarangan

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Visitors await the poetry readings. Photo by Taras Matla.

On Saturday, April 25th, students, families, and community members explored the university’s campus during Maryland Day, an annual spring tradition. With emphasis on learning and fun, the campus was divided into six different sections. The Art Gallery was one of the checkpoints and highlights of “Arts Alley,” where visitors got a taste of the creative, visual, and performing arts.

In its final days, the Streams of Being exhibition was open for all and acted as a collaborative, integrative space for a diverse audience. By 2pm, over two hundred visitors had experienced the exhibition in various capacities. The gallery provided an environment conducive to storytelling and sharing, as students from the Creative Writing MFA program read their work aloud. Their narratives were received with enthusiasm and seemed to work well in the space, surrounded by the art.

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Students from the Creative Writing MFA program share their work. Photo by Taras Matla.

The Herman Maril Teaching and Research Gallery allowed visitors to experience a more playful approach to a piece from the exhibition. In partnership with the College Park Community Center, Lindsey D’Andelet developed a project surrounding Filemón Santiago Avendaño’s Untitled, in which children designed and created their own imaginary hybrid animals. These creatures were displayed in conjunction with a stop animation film of the animals in motion.

Everyone who visited the gallery on Maryland Day seemed to be very intrigued by the show and its various ‘streams.’ The larger, more iconic works in the show drew visitors into the gallery and from room to room, while smaller pieces called for close looking and contemplation. On its last day at The Art Gallery, Streams of Being definitely received the attention and recognition it deserved. Maryland Day increased awareness of and accessibility to the gallery, encouraging families and individuals to immerse themselves in art.

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View of the title wall through The Gallery’s front doors. April 25, 2015 was the closing day of the Streams of Being exhibition. Photo by Taras Matla.

Sibia Sarangan is a senior Art History and Government and Politics double major. Her areas of interest are contemporary African-American art and museum studies. She is currently a collections management and research intern at The Art Gallery, where she primarily works with the G. Lewis Schmidt and Kyoko Edayoshi Schmidt Collection of Japanese woodblock prints.

Art and Technology: The Use of Augmented Reality in The Art Gallery

The Art Gallery is currently hosting the exhibition Streams of Being: Selections from the Art Museum of the Americas. Curated by Assistant Professor of Latin American Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Abigail McEwen, and University of Maryland graduate students, the exhibition features forty-five artists from sixteen countries across the Americas. To commemorate and celebrate this unique exhibition and collaboration between the Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States and The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland, various University of Maryland graduate students and undergraduate students have taken over our blog. In the following post, junior art history major Julie Kemp discusses her augmented reality project.

Art and Technology: The Use of Augmented Reality in The Art Gallery
Julie Kemp

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An Argentine artist, Raquel Forner (1902-88) explored a range of humanist themes in her paintings, engaging such topics as the tragedy of the Spanish Civil and the fantasies of the Space Age.  The Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) organized a solo exhibition of her work in 1957, and her mural Origin of a New Dimension (1982) is on view at the General Secretariat Building of the Organization of American States.  Also in AMA’s permanent collection is one of her books, Astro-êtres à Québec (1976).  Its twenty-four images highlight the artist’s surrealist style in their description of distorted and abstracted figures in black and white.

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Forner’s themes of tragedy are seen in many of these images.  One image shows cannons with smoke coming out of them, suggesting war and destruction.  Some figures are seen floating in the air, giving a ghostly impression.  Many others appear somber and depressed; the book includes images of open fields with bodies strewn about as though on a battlefield.  Doors are seen in several of the images, with figures in portals and around staircases; they appear in transition, possibly between states of consciousness or between life and death.

In several of the images the figureskemp blog_forner 3 blend together, making it difficult to distinguish where one ends and another begins.  Human and animal figures blend, almost suggesting abstract forms.  Multiple faces appear on these figures, and there are numerous limbs.  In relation to the scenes of war and its aftermath, these figures might portray the scenes of death and the destruction caused by war.

Not all of the pages from Forner’s book are on display in the Gallery, due to limitations of space. Through the use of augmented reality, however, all of the images from the book may be seen. Visitors to the gallery can use the iPads, or any device with an augmented reality app such as Junaio, that are available to scan a QR code. By pointing a device to one of the images, visitors to the Gallery are able to flip through all of the images in the book. My interest in the use of technology in art led me to work on this project, having no prior experience with augmented reality.  The Metaio software is easy to use, and I encourage others to experiment with augmented reality.

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Julie Kemp is a junior Art History major.  Her interest in abstract, surreal, and expressionist styles drew her to Forner’s work. The dreamy, science-fiction, space-age images are what she likes most about her work.  Forner has a lot of works in color that are just as fascinating—take a look at some of the other stuff she has done.

Releasing Your Inner Child to Let Your Artwork See No Bounds

The Art Gallery is currently hosting the exhibition Streams of Being: Selections from the Art Museum of the Americas. Curated by Assistant Professor of Latin American Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Abigail McEwen, and University of Maryland graduate students, the exhibition features forty-five artists from sixteen countries across the Americas. To commemorate and celebrate this unique exhibition and collaboration between the Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States and The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland, various University of Maryland graduate students and undergraduate students have taken over our blog. For her class project, UMD junior Lindsay D’Andelet worked with an after school program to reinterpret and reimagine the Filemon Santiago Avendaño work UntitledAll of the photos in this post are taken by D’Andelet unless otherwise noted.

Releasing Your Inner Child to Let Your Artwork See No Bounds
Lindsay D’Andelet

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Filemon Santiago Avendaño (Mexico), Untitled, c. 1979. Watercolor, 18 x 24,” Collection OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas.

To the carefree child there is no theory of art.  There is no sense of complementary colors, no difference between six types of drawing pencils, no trivial question, “Is my darkest dark too dark, my lightest value too light?”  There is simply a pencil for drawing, along with pastels and paints that come in every color imaginable by the young mind.  While working with the College Park Community Center’s After School Program, with children aged six to twelve, I kept this idea in mind as we worked ever so carefully to complete artworks during two one-hour sessions.  Together, we developed reimagined versions of Filemón Santiago Avendaño’s painting, Untitled, and then employed digital technology to create a stop animation of their pieces.  The idea of creating a time-based artwork came easily; as I looked at Santiago’s piece I envisioned the creatures floating and moving in space.

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While using Santiago’s watercolor Untitled as inspiration, the children acknowledged the fact that, yes, Santiago did mainly use the same color scheme throughout his composition. But taking for themselves that same creative freedom, they used colors of their own choice.  A rainbow of oil pastels smudged their faces and hands as they beamed at their artworks and quietly chatted amongst themselves about what type of hybrid animal they were creating.  Aquatic animals were fused with four-legged land animals, soaring creatures with ones who scurried with eight legs.  These hybrid animals exemplified the already complex interworkings of their young minds.

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Inventive ideas were also apparent in the production of the stop motion animation in our second session.  The children made note that the background—a 6×9 piece of canvas—was blank and limitless, not having a foreground, middle ground, or background.  They would not have to confine their ideas to any particular space.   This allowed for discussion to be constant throughout the creation of the animation: as one child mentioned his or her next move, the rest of the group members began to plan their moves accordingly.

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Overall, I was surprised at how much the children enjoyed the stop motion animation process and how involved they stayed throughout the forty minutes allotted for picture taking.   The composite piece they created is not a mirror image of Santiago’s Untitled, but it reflects a vibrancy that can only be produced by the boundless imagination of a child.  The animation will be on view at The Art Gallery on Maryland Day.

Lindsay D’Andelet is a junior at the University of Maryland studying Studio Art.  She has been active in the arts through Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation since the summer of 2013, working with children and adults through various creative projects.  After graduation, Lindsay wishes to pursue an M.A. in Art Therapy and Counseling at The George Washington University to further spread the understanding of visual media as a means of internal healing.

Slow Art Day 2015 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery

The Art Gallery is currently hosting the exhibition Streams of Being: Selections from the Art Museum of the Americas. Curated by Assistant Professor of Latin American Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Abigail McEwen, and University of Maryland graduate students, the exhibition features forty-five artists from sixteen countries across the Americas. To commemorate and celebrate this unique exhibition and collaboration between the Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States and The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland, various University of Maryland graduate students and undergraduate students have taken over our blog. Below, Eloy Areu recaps Slow Art 2015. (More information about Slow Art Day and our Slow Art Day organizer, UMD student Chloe Isaac, can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Slow Art Day 2015 at the University of Maryland Art Gallery
Eloy Areu

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Guests gather in front of an artwork during Slow Art Day 2015. Howard University student Bria Burditt (far left) and University of Maryland student Chloe Isaac (center, in red) helped lead the discussion. Photo by Taras Matla.

Slow Art Day took place on Saturday, April 11 at The Art Gallery, where the exhibition Streams of Being: Selections from the Art Museum of the Americas is on view through April 25, 2015. Seventeen people attended the two-hour event, a number that allowed a very comfortable and intimate discussion to ensue during the second half of the program. The five works highlighted for slow observation were Chilean artist Claudio Bravo’s Fur Coat Back and Front, Cuban artist Mario Carreño’s Sonata de la Piedra y de la Carne, Argentine artist Ernesto Deira’s Tempo, Brazilian artist Tomie Ohtake’s untitled piece from her Creation of the World series, and Chilean artist Roberto Matta’s surrealistic piece Nuit Courve.

The discussion that followed individual viewing brought forth many interesting comments. Some of the participants indicated that while their initial reaction to a particular piece may at first have been negative, their opinion changed after spending ten or more minutes closely examining it. One of the visitors had lived in Chile during the Pinochet era when the lithograph by Claudio Bravo was created. She related her experiences of the country’s political atmosphere at that time to the somber look of the character displayed in the piece.

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A guest records her reaction to Claudio Bravo’s Fur Coat Back and Front. Photo by Taras Matla.

Reactions to Carreño’s clean and organic piece were, for the most part, positive. The muted colors and the blue drapery helped to soften the otherwise hard edges. One participant, however, described the piece as “bottom-heavy,” while other comments implied that the artist must have – consciously or unconsciously – referenced modern works of art as well as examples from antiquity and the Renaissance.

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Visitors consider Mario Carreno’s Sonata de la Piedra y de la Carne from various angles. Photo by Taras Matla.

Viewers expressed a variety of emotional reactions to Deira’s abstract painting, made of industrial enamel on canvas, supplying words like “jarring,” “monster-like,” and “attractive.” One commenter noted that, if turned upside down, the work resembled a silhouette of Mickey Mouse or even of a fawn.

The most common comments about Ohtake’s large canvas were that the muted, fiery color of the circle—hardly discernible from a distance—became visible close up and that the large size of the piece amplified the visual impact that would be lost at a smaller size. One of the attendees played on her phone Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, a song that came to mind when she first saw the piece. Comments about Matta’s piece, like those for Deira, were mixed; some people liked it more than others. But the most common comments connected the piece to science fiction themes, from Star Trek to the Twilight Zone, as drawn on a blackboard.

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Almost all visitors noted the importance of seeing Tomie Ohtake’s Untitled (Creation of the World series) from both afar and up close. Photo by Madeline Gent.

At the end of the event participants said how much they enjoyed it. The comments suggested not only how worthwhile it had been for them to spend “slow time” looking at pieces of art, but also how helpful it had been to hear perspectives different than their own.

Eloy Areu is an artist who studies art history at the University of Maryland. For more information about him and to see his art, visit www.ArtbyAreu.com.  

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University of Maryland student Chloe Isaac. Photo by Taras Matla.

Slow Art Day was organized for The Art Gallery by University of Maryland junior Chloe Isaac. Isaac, a communications and studio art major, manages social media operations for The Slow Art Day organization.

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Howard University Student Bria Burditt.

Howard University student Bria Burditt was also a huge help on Slow Art Day. Along with Chloe, she answered questions about the organization and helped lead group discussion.

For more about Slow Art Day, see the organization’s website: http://www.slowartday.com/.