Another Student Send-Off

UT presents its most expansive Honors Exhibition yet

After seeing UT art and architecture honors student shows through time, one notices various shifts in emphasis. Whereas sculpture dominates and shines one year, it can fail to impress the next go-round—when design projects or paintings are especially accomplished. Furthermore, trends in specific disciplines amplify then subside, becoming evident as more and more pieces utilize the same materials or juggle similar references before new threads are woven into the cloth.

As within the greater art and design world (into which graduating students are presumably about to immerse themselves), we notice changing levels of energy and degrees of involvement with or alienation from the culture-at-large; depending on time period, there is more or less urgency when it comes to communicating ideas. And this year's Honors Exhibition—as always—represents another passage within an ongoing endeavor.

Speaking of communicating ideas, what I write is not always popular with UT artists. Perhaps an occasionally negative assessment of student art reflects a generation gap, or maybe the cutthroat critiques I endured at Rhode Island School of Design simply made me a bit harsh. The bottom line is that art criticism is not objective; it's generally based on a certain amount of knowledge and experience, and it's hopefully insightful and considerate; still, it's a matter of opinion.

On the other hand, selected architecture and interior design efforts by 13 students compete for space, spilling out into areas beyond the Ewing Gallery (including the Art and

Architecture

Building

's ill-lit central "lobby" and what's been dubbed "Gallery 103"). The number of designs displayed could be pared down, but viewers might feel as shortchanged as I do seeing so little fine art. Also, as ambitious in scope as the design work is, having so much to look at is exhausting. The solution is to skip close scrutiny of projects that would only appeal to clients in

Rotterdam

tripping on acid. What's left includes some well-considered and sometimes bordering-on-transcendent exercises—the kind leaving us amazed by what uncorrupted young minds can produce.

m

 

After seeing UT art and architecture honors student shows through time, one notices various shifts in emphasis. Whereas sculpture dominates and shines one year, it can fail to impress the next go-round—when design projects or paintings are especially accomplished. Furthermore, trends in specific disciplines amplify then subside, becoming evident as more and more pieces utilize the same materials or juggle similar references before new threads are woven into the cloth.

As within the greater art and design world (into which graduating students are presumably about to immerse themselves), we notice changing levels of energy and degrees of involvement with or alienation from the culture-at-large; depending on time period, there is more or less urgency when it comes to communicating ideas. And this year's Honors Exhibition—as always—represents another passage within an ongoing endeavor.

Speaking of communicating ideas, what I write is not always popular with UT artists. Perhaps an occasionally negative assessment of student art reflects a generation gap, or maybe the cutthroat critiques I endured at Rhode Island School of Design simply made me a bit harsh. The bottom line is that art criticism is not objective; it's generally based on a certain amount of knowledge and experience, and it's hopefully insightful and considerate; still, it's a matter of opinion.

That said, I'll add that I find fine art in this year's show disappointing. For starters, there's not much of it. Bravely representing the sculpture medium are pieces by Katie Pardue, and everything ceramic is the work of Jessie Renfro. Two videos and a smattering of unrelated photographs are by Stephanie Kowal. Paintings are limited to contributions by only two students (Anne Ford and David Pease—the latter presenting what might more appropriately be categorized as drawings with applied color). Maritza Gualy has mounted a trio of black and white cut-out figures and a grid of images (with corresponding jewelry) that best fit a graphic design classification. Whatever their attributes, the above choices smack of slim pickings.

On the other hand, selected architecture and interior design efforts by 13 students compete for space, spilling out into areas beyond the Ewing Gallery (including the Art and Architecture Building's ill-lit central "lobby" and what's been dubbed "Gallery 103"). The number of designs displayed could be pared down, but viewers might feel as shortchanged as I do seeing so little fine art. Also, as ambitious in scope as the design work is, having so much to look at is exhausting. The solution is to skip close scrutiny of projects that would only appeal to clients in Rotterdam tripping on acid. What's left includes some well-considered and sometimes bordering-on-transcendent exercises—the kind leaving us amazed by what uncorrupted young minds can produce.

Leading the architecture pack is Laura Price's priceless plan for a "Nashville Rowing Center and Greenway." Her drawings and model present muscular but graceful structural elements we might associate with Maya Lin. In fact, wrap-around glass and other staples of the Bauhaus and Frank Lloyd Wright, combined with Price's feel for wood, make her work both traditionally modernist and down-to-earth. Additionally, the De Stijl-like horizontal/vertical application of wood strips over glass is reminiscent of Japanese Shoji screens, but it's nevertheless fresh. What's more, Price's presentation itself is exemplary.

Of course presentation shouldn't win out over strong concepts, but illustrations of projects that aren't put together in a neat and logical manner are admittedly hard to wrap one's mind around. Efforts by Price and by graduate students Myles Trudell ("Surreal Strip Mall") and Steven Collins ("Subverting The Panopticon: Privacy in the Public Realm") remind us that when it comes to something in plan form, reigned-in complexity and thoughtful visual presentation are essential to lucidity. And loose watercolor sketches like those that accompany Eric Hawkins' project titled "From the Musical to the Monastic" are welcome icing on the cake.

The big Tau Sigma Delta award goes to Cheryl Maliszewski for her "Blackwater Canyon National Park Visitors Center" design. As with Price's excellent plan, ordinary materials achieve elegance—and Maliszewski's hillside design exudes an organic sensibility, seen in free-form shapes incorporated into the existing landscape.

Interior design students Ziv Chan, Candace Greene, Megan Simpson, and Alisha White celebrate established approaches and design icons (i.e. 20th century furniture classics), each with varying degrees of success. Chan's design for a "River Hub Restaurant and Bar" near the Henley Bridge is striking. The site is unusual, and lighting with an underwater moodiness surrounds furnishings that refer to bridge construction.

Fine art stand-outs are Pardue's monolithic grouping of simple but seriously long black dresses and Gualy's "16-page square" adjacent to her "Succexy Girls" cut-outs. The way in which Gualy's retro-without-being-tired women with rings and bracelets interact with measuring tape imagery is brilliant; if I were an art director at Vogue , I'd hire her to do fashion illustration in a heartbeat.

Finally, Kowal's continuous screening of two short videos is worthy of mention. "Flutter" features a faint image of a moth amidst changing colors and abstract motion accompanied by a soundtrack with snapping fluorescent noises, both evoking poignant listlessness. Kowal's untitled piece appears to combine old material (film footage from her childhood?) with current images of gulls and surf—a montage in muted colors. And Kowal's handling of her subject matter somehow captures the elusive rhythm of memory and nostalgia. One question remains: What memories will we have of this year's Honors Exhibition a decade from now? Time will tell. m

 

What: UT Honors Exhibition

Where: UT's Ewing Gallery, "Gallery 103," and Art & Architecture Bldg. Lobby,

When: Thru May 27. Call 974-3200 or visit www.ewing-gallery.org / for info.

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