To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Rachel Adams explores diversity in contemporary art

The relationship between art and space is an important contemporary theme that many artists have been working with. Associate Curator Rachel Adams in particular has been exploring this sphere, and Brandeis was lucky enough to host her for a presentation about the newest installations that she helped bring to the University at Buffalo (UB).

Adams is especially interested in the relationship between space and architecture in art. The first half of the presentation included a variety of works, mostly innovative, interactive and engaging, while the second half focused on presenting pieces of artwork that intertwined with nature, architecture and other spaces around the structures. One of the first pieces she presented was Kurt Miller’s “American Dream,” an interactive piece that is a digital box in which viewers put their heads to simulate being present as Martin Luther King, Jr. gives a speech and a huge crowd claps and cheers in the background.

Sehar Shah is another artist that Adams was excited to display at the Buffalo gallery. A Pakistani artist, Shah experiments with architecture and art. Her pieces are characterized as large, urban relics, monuments and other spiritually symbolic ways of creating a sort of atmosphere that transcends everyday life. The objects are described as “geometric lenscapes,” a play between the inside and outside of the areas, “object relics” with cast work pieces that resemble a reductionist form of art arrangement. When Shah came to visit the museum in Buffalo, she helped Adams paint the floor, cutting out pieces of curtains and creating a traditional Indian city in the small room of the gallery.

Another one of Adam’s most admired artists is Justin Cooper, an artist who specializes in drawing and performance art and who makes discreet objects and fosters a new vein of work consisting of sporadic installations. Most of Cooper’s pieces engage with threads of rebar to reconstruct a sort of “bent” body. Some of his piece are also outdoors, but “Canopy,” one of his newest pieces, uses garden hoses to hold up metal folding chairs. The art piece creates an abstract illusion, getting viewers to wonder how garden hoses are able to keep the folding chairs up in the air, which look as if they are floating.

John Grade, one of Adam’s inspirations, is a Seattle-based artist who installed a piece titled “Canopy Tower,” which was made out of ipe wood, rope, steel and wire. The piece is 15-feet, 9-inches and 15 feet in diameter, installed in Edwards Marcus Sculpture Park in Austin, Texas. This artwork mirrors the landscape of nature by imitating the texture and heights of canyons and plateaus.

The point of the piece is to engage the audience through the monumental sculptures by tying space and time together through the lens of an environment motif: an interactive experience that expands viewers’ perspective to describe the conflict of the natural space with man-made materials that disrupt this environment. Additionally, this contrast further emphasizes the theme of life versus its deterioration.

Artists Claire Ashley and Bahar Yurukoglu’s newest installation, “Intimate Horizons,” was one of the last pieces that Adams spoke about. The piece is especially interesting because it incorporates patterns in space through the use of different media. Ashley makes inflatable sculptures and Yurukoglu creates work around geometric symmetry. The combination of their works together produces a landscape full of engagement with architecture. The medium of the inflatable with Bahar’s use of Plexiglass creates a spatial awareness in contemporary art.

Adam’s goal of incorporating original installations that incorporate art and space and architecture together is a successful one. Not only did she include a multitude of artists from different backgrounds, but all of the art pieces are completely diverse in terms of material, background, environment and purpose. Bringing together art and space is a very important concept, especially for contemporary art, and Adams did an incredible job of choosing pieces full of power, creativity, nature and engagement within each artwork.

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