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Multimedia art takes over Tufts Gallery

Gallery Review

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 03:04


Sammy Chong, ‘Laundromat,‘ 2011, courtesy tufts art gallery

Chong’s use of plexiglass is key to many of the themes in his work.


As the year wraps up, Tufts students brace themselves for the coming onslaught of finals: where their learning — or habit of checking Facebook — will be put to one last test before summer internships and jobs take the place of the classroom. Happily, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) is also testing its MFA candidates, and the result of this final exam is a wonderfully varied show, now on display at the Tufts University Art Gallery.

The MFA Thesis Exhibition, at the university gallery through April 29, displays the work of nine artists: Eunice Yoon-Seon Choi, Sammy Chong, Amy Mae Flaherty, Heidi Hogden, Helena Hsieh, Jee Min Kim, Arhia Kohlmoos, Kate Rapin and Kimberly Ruth. The artists’ work shown in the exhibition includes representational painting, painted Plexiglas reliefs, graphite drawing, experimental film and installations. The vast array of works emphasizes the variety of techniques employed by today’s artists. Themes vary considerably as well, ranging from explorations of time to the role of media in constructing the modern global citizen.

One of the first groups of work, found in the first room of the Tisch Gallery, is that of Chong, “So Close, So Distant.” Chong creates striking multidimensional paintings using layered sheets of Plexiglas displayed as a single work. Each of the Plexiglas panels is painted with different parts of a single everyday scene: people standing in line at the grocery store, a crowded subway car, a laundromat. Each layer is a fragment of the scene, separated from the other parts of the painting, yet visually unified by the viewer’s perspective. 

One painting in oil and acrylic, entitled “Permanent Press” (2011), shows five people in a laundromat. The space is detailed, but Chong has eliminated the faces of the individuals, leaving instead a clear Plexiglas outline of their faces or profiles. Figures relate to one another only through their physical accoutrements: their clothing, the laundry baskets they carry and the physical space they share. Chong mobilizes the properties of Plexiglas to signify the invisible barriers that exist between individuals in public spaces, and he explores the anonymity and detachment from self-experience by the modern individual in the crowded public spaces of urban landscape.

Another striking work is the installation piece by Rapin, entitled “New York Times TV Listings.” Rapin’s piece dominates the small, cube-like space in the back portion of the gallery. Rapin has covered the floor and walls of the room with brightly colored lines made of blue, black, green, red and yellow tape. Looking closer, you see that the tape covers TV listings from The New York Times. Rapin’s work was created in the aftermath of the death of a family member, a time when Rapin was grappling with the fleeting and uncontrollable nature of time. In an effort to reconcile herself with the uncontrollable and ineffable, Rapin started to explore different ways to organize time visually. She turned to TV listings, which she taped over with different colors to form patterns of “time blocks.” Although Rapin’s exhibit, with its myriad rows of color, is at first confusing, patterns eventually appear in the rows of tape. Still, no single pattern can be discerned. Here is time, compulsively organized, visually laid out for the viewer, who must attempt to order and organize for himself the mass of colors and patterns.

The work of Heidi Hogden, “42.88ºN — 88.01ºW,” presents a memory-portrait of Hogden’s hometown, Franklin, Wisc., through a series of hyper-detailed graphite drawings. The five drawings depict wildflowers silhouetted against a sky, a large-scale image of a hunter carrying a crossbow, two stags fighting and two other, smaller images of deer. The dreamlike images, each named only by a specific date and time, are based on photographs the artist took of different spots around her hometown. The “portraits” of Franklin are thus twice removed, mediated by the lens of a camera and reworked by the artist at a later time.

One striking image, “10/15/2011 4:35 PM” shows a male hunter grasping a crossbow and dressed in camouflage. He stands in a field edged with trees, and though he faces us aggressively, grasping his weapon behind his back, the viewer cannot discern the true direction of his gaze, and his face itself remains hazy and indistinct. His portrait, like the others in Hogden’s work, is foggily rendered and gestures towards Hogden’s own perception of her town and the relationship between townsperson and landscape.

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