Tag Archive: installation

  1. Art+Projects

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    For the eighth year in a row, Yale School of Drama students have displayed their art in the Yale University Art Gallery. And this year, the exhibit Gallery+Drama brought bright lights, music and vibrant projections to the gallery, to halls full of Greek statues and Dutch paintings.

    Gallery+ was a series of four installations reinterpreting some of the YUAG’s existing works through interactive technologies. The exhibit sought to explore what it means to really engage with art using all of your senses. All four moments worked with pieces from the collection, layering sights and sounds, some subtle and some quite startling, on Rothkos and Pollocks.

    The exhibit began in the Ancient Gallery with “Behind the Whites,” an installation responding to questions like “What’s behind the statues?” and “What happens far away?” A large, two-sided mirror reflected the somber ambiance, standing among ancient Greek pottery, Byzantine mosaics, Egyptian burial masks and grand Roman statues. From a cleverly concealed projector, images of statues in the room and from around the world sprung up, mixing with video footage of gardens and ancients sites where, no doubt, many of the works originated. As I leaned towards the mirror, the projections took on a holographic quality, rapidly distorting and reappearing in varying shades and shadowy forms. The mirror did not show my heart’s true desire, as J.K. Rowling’s Erised would have, but it did serve to “unmask” the statues, revealing a history and emotional context I would otherwise not have discerned.

    The next installation, “Hearing Rothko”, in the Modern Design and Contemporary Gallery, featured two large paintings by Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko. Two iPads and a set of headphones allowed the viewer/listener/wearer to “experience a personalized soundscape and enter the color-dipped, transformative world of Rothko.” The tablets prompted me to select a number of adjectives describing my initial sensory perceptions of the art. Descriptors like pomegranate, sunset, sunrise and fiery appeared on the screens, each matched with its own music. The two paintings, canvasses bright as the sanguine heat of a passionate blush, came alive with the emotive music flowing into my headphones.

    After the squeaky clean brightness of the Rothko paintings, the “Alphabet City” installation was startling and refreshingly gritty. An exploration of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the late 1980’s, “Alphabet City” included a projection spiraling on the floor in front of the painting. I stepped on the projection and the “funky” beat, inspired by classic hip hop from the streets of the Bronx, changed and pulsed.

    I had trouble finding the final Jackson Pollock installation, “What does a painting sound like?” I wandered around the third floor before discovering the black gaffer tape arrows on the floor. The arrows led to an elevator leaking an eerie red light, and when opened, an intense crimson wash flooded the hallway. Otherworldly music surrounded me as I entered, and strange sounds slithered around me as the elevator descended. This installation was the most outlandish of them all and I’m still not sure how it related to the tangled, chaotic mass of gray skeins in Pollock’s “Arabesque.”

    Gallery+Drama was an extremely satisfying exhibit. It fit with the existing art seamlessly and provided a refreshing sensory experience. As millennials, we are no longer content with just one artistic medium at a time — we want the music, the video and the motion all at once, and that’s precisely what Gallery+ delivered.

  2. Not a Display, a Show

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    You can hear the music before you enter the gallery — an unsettling wail falling in pitch layered over another rising wail. The sound reverberates through the basement, provoking confused stares and curious glances from passers-by. They look at the black curtain and green sign, which innocently reads “Enter.” Some ignore it. Others accept the invitation.

    Past that curtain, two hundred hand-drawn figures cover the gallery walls, floating in the dim, oval space. The figures are nude, humanoid creatures, and their cartoonish silhouettes are bright against the dark tarp walls, creating a stark contrast between the drawings and their surroundings. Each creature is unique, with extended limbs and outlandish features that counter formal anatomical depictions.

    The installation, called “Thirst,” has been in the works since early August, when artist Vance Dekker-Vargas ’17 began drawing the first figures. Upon their completion, he traced these figures using Photoshop, then vinyl cut them and attached them to the green tarp. Finally, he used RGB lights to illuminate the space.

    At first, the figures are bathed in blue LED lights and a blacklight — the floating creatures glow in the dark against the walls. But as that dissonant wailing builds, the lights flicker and eventually turn a striking bright green. Suddenly viewers find a completely different scene before them. Not only are the cartoon figures actually green, but the walls are green as well. The new lighting reveals this, and the figures dissipate into the tarp walls. Then, just as viewers grow accustomed to this new atmosphere, the lights go out completely. The gallery is now transformed from a space of movement and light into a void.

    Dekker-Vargas was inspired by one of University President Peter Salovey’s emails to the Yale community, in which he called Yale a place of “creative construction,” where students should not only build but dig into and complicate the very spaces in which they create. Dekker-Vargas took this advice to heart, using the Stiles Gallery as both a means and an end, creation and vacancy.

    Indeed, in “Thirst,” the beauty of the individual artwork is insufficient — the space the work inhabits is also “art.” The two cannot be separated. Even hanging on a white wall, Dekker-Vargas’ impressive drawings would still attract visitors, but his complex installation transforms what could have been a mere display into an immersive show. Viewers feel that they have dissipated into the gallery just as the creatures have dissipated into the tarp — the result is an engaging and interactive experience.

    And it’s not an experience that’s only accessible to art lovers — it’s visually stimulating to anyone who enters the ever-changing space. In pushing back that black curtain, viewers inevitably become a part of the artwork itself, proving that today’s art is more than paintings of gardens or drawings of men. Today’s art is not only viewed, but experienced. And that experience can be had by all, and it cannot be defined.