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Double Hung

VES exhibition puts provocative undergraduate art on display

By Lee ann W. Custer, Contributing Writer

Like a provocative lecture packed with unanswered questions, “Double Hung I,” the first of a two-part exhibition of student artwork at the Carpenter Center, left me yearning for resolution. “Double Hung I” intriguingly dangles conceptual ideas within viewers’ realm of understanding, but refuses easy answers.

The exhibition displays a remarkable variety of media. Showcasing 18 works selected from undergraduate Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) classes, the exhibition includes works in oil paint, graphite, cardboard, Plexiglas, animation, and film. Department faculty selected the pieces, which present a smorgasbord of styles, from the precision of “The Couple/A drawing by a couple with two hands” by Margot “Tess” Wood ’10 to the recollection of ready-made ideals in “Untitled” by Jose “Enzo” Camacho ’07.

Many works, like “ME Weekly,” by Martha A. “Martabel” Wasserman ’10, skillfully bend conventions to make viewers reconsider their perceptions of popular culture and art. Wasserman’s piece is a mixed-media re-invention of the frivolous, gossip-hungry magazine “US Weekly.” By altering parts of the magazine’s text and inserting opposing images, Wasserman creates poignant juxtapositions.

One page, entitled “Puttin’ on the Glitz” shows a photograph of red carpet-ready Eva Longoria and the following text: “Iraqi citizen, it condemned Dell’Acqua with black and white diamonds attack that had left twenty-three children dead.” The combination of the original text referring to Longoria’s exorbitant dress and the added news clips about Iraq create a meaningful reminder that for many, the color of their next stiletto is not the most pressing matter.

“Self-Portrait,” by Daniel Chen ’08, challenges the artistic tradition that provides its title, giving viewers little idea of what Chen actually looks like. “Self-Portrait” is a composition of dozens of photographs of varying sizes, each a different portrait of an Asian or Asian-American male wearing glasses. Unlike typical composite pictures that use many small images to create a single larger image, each portrait stands independently. Ultimately, Chen leaves it for the viewer to decide which person he is, if he is even pictured at all.

Chen skillfully avoids a “Brady Bunch” arrangement of faces peering at each other by manipulating his grid. His geometric arrangement is asymmetrical and unique because of the altered dimensions. The subjects of each photo do not gaze at each other or show interaction; they function alone. Abandoning the traditional self-portrait and capitalizing on the repetition of keeping ethnicity and glasses as constants, Chen questions identity and sameness in a focused, non-didactic way.

Finally, Sabrina Chou ’09 questions conventional ideas about the nature of human interaction in her work “Vend a Friend” (2006). “Vend a Friend” is comprised of a large cardboard box with written directions, explaining that with the insertion of a “ticket,” a cardboard “friend” comes through a slot in the box. On one side, an open door reveals the reality that each friend inside the box is the same. An ominous “out of order” sign toys with emotions.

“Double Hung I” has no explanatory guide. Instead, it skillfully—and delightfully—requires the viewer to come up with inventive solutions to the problems each work poses.

—“Double Hung I” runs until Friday, Feb. 9. The second half of this exhibition, “Double Hung II,” will be shown Wednesday, Feb. 14 to Tuesday, Feb. 23.

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