The most important skill for young artists to cultivate is the ability to see well. The way an artist judges the things he sees determines his taste, and this taste can be cultivated.
With this in mind, I walked into the Art Department’s “Undergraduate Comprehensive Art Exhibition of Fall 2009 Work” at Green Hall, and set out to discover what students are being taught to look for in undergraduate art classes.
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It is very difficult to find a continuous visual trend in the art work based on the sculptures — the first things the visitor sees in the gallery — because of the great number of pieces and because each artist has so few pieces in the exhibit. This is not to say that the sculptures are bad, but one can’t get a feel for any larger trends without being immersed in a single sculptor’s work.
It wasn’t until I walked down to the second floor that I found something closer to what I was hoping for. Initially, I had ignored the work from Alice Chung’s typography and design classes; this was a mistake.
At the back of the second room, two tables stand side by side. The one on the right is for typography, and it is covered with little books and pages presenting different fonts. The table on the left is for design, and it is littered with various objects: mini Bombay Sapphire bottles are lined up in a row on one side, each one filled with a different colored mysterious substance. Grouped in the middle of the table are numerous bottle caps designed by different companies.
These presentations are specific and obsessive in their search for a way of seeing and judging the aesthetic success of fonts and designs. The two explorations are not the result of any one person’s taste or choices — the display seems to be a study of various items that seeks to discover which work best. Maybe, then, this is not even art. One cannot be sure that the process is creative, even though the product appears to be. But in the context of the show this is not a problem. What could be better in an undergraduate class than guiding young artists tofigure out what they like?
I spent some time trying to decide which typeface I liked, or whether circumstance determines which one is most effective, and I wasn’t able to make up my mind. I wish I had taken these two classes.
On the lowest floor, there is another group of works that has a unifying vision: the photographs from lecturer Phillip Pisciotta’s “Color Photography” class.
All of the photographs relate to one another in a mysterious way: the subject matter is quite diverse and the photos are anonymous, but the viewer still has a feeling that something very private is being revealed.
In the corner, to the right of the photographs from Pisciotta’s class, there is a small sculpture. Two stacks of various commercial insulation materials stand side by side. Though the materials are ugly alone and easily overlooked, stacked together they become quite beautiful. Bringing a common and commercial material into a gallery in order to elevate it is by no means a new idea, but seeing something in one context and bringing it to another where it functions well is part of that first and most important skill: the ability to recognize and judge.