New Gallery

The current exhibition at the New Gallery on campus, appropriately named “Earth 2002,” is displaying an eclectic collection of works responding to significant ecological issues by various artists from around the nation. The exposition, under the curatorial direction of Sherry Gache, is one of several that will be featured at the gallery.
“Earth 2002” opened on Jan. 18 and will end its run on Feb. 15, when the art pieces will be moved to another exhibition and replaced by new works. Furthermore, in accordance with the theme of “Earth 2002,” a special lecture presented by the gallery will feature two University of Miami environmental experts, Ellen Prager, of the marine biology department, and Hal Wanless, of the geological sciences department. The presentation highlighted substantial ecological issues ranging from sea level rise to changes in ocean life.
Walking through the gallery is an enlightening journey inside the fretful minds of artists who have created a unique, aesthetic perspective on the existing effluences that permeate a green world of nature contaminated by the dark fumes of pollution. The artists in this exhibition respond in disparate ways to the problems brought about by today’s environmental changes, each expressing their concern in visually stunning works.
The first piece at the entrance, which encompasses the words introducing the exhibition (“Earth 2002”), is an unconventional work entitled “Exchange of Echoes” by Paul Hitopoulos of South Carolina. It consists of many rows of grass attached to a wall. To compose the piece, he used 150-year-old crown molding, soil and vegetation; in this way, the molding becomes part of the gallery’s architecture. In a statement about the work, Hitopoulos comments that the work bridges the gap between what is and what is not art. The grass, in a certain metaphysical way, fills the literal and metaphorical gap between these two logics. “To my sensibilities,” writes Hitopoulos, “preservation of what exists is good, suburban sprawl and contemporary single family architecture (construction) are evil.”
A three-print work by Aimee Joyaux from Indiana titled “The Earth is one day thinner” has a haunting feel that will make you strongly contemplate certain environmental problems. Three silver toned prints surrounded by steel frames show a close-up of hands maneuvering hay and soil as the ghostly words in the middle print exclaim, “the Rock is one day thinner.” Joyaux is interested in creating works that deal with contemporary issues and exploring the ways photography and language can represent and shape personal identity, sexuality and gender. He notes that his work in mixed-media “combines the devices of narrative sequence, installation and construction to explore a scrambled auto-biography.” Here, the idea is a sequential work portraying a man-made rape of nature.
New Jersey-native Maria Lupo presents a bizarre, enigmatic series of object sculptures that may symbolize the indigenous relationship between different animals and animals with humans. “Pig Baby” is a baby doll lying on a soft cushion with a pig nose and a pig tail attached to it. “Piscis Ostensus Series, #1A” has a pig nose attached to something resembling the body of a fish with plants which make up the scales; it hangs floating from the gallery’s ceiling. “Genius Series, Elephantus locklen” is a strange object with a body of black feathers and a gold elephant nose. On a lighter note, next to these works, Augusto Arbizo showcases “Reef” a dazzling, abstract acrylic painting of greens, blues and yellows that embody the forms of the ocean’s reef and coral.
An oil painting by Mia Brownell, a Connecticut native, has a sharp, pink-and-purple background with black polka dots. The right center is “decorated” with a headless, wingless, skinned chicken’s body. This work is part of the artist’s ongoing series called the “Stomach Acid Dream.”
“I am expanding classical still life painting to include symbolic imagery and pop abstraction in order to express a reaction to the overwhelming expansion of genetically modified foods and other manipulations of what we eat by biotechnology,” explains Brownell about her work in progress.
She finds that biological manipulations of the natural foods we eat bring a new hazard to the consumer. She wants to combine traditional painting along with various industry symbols (here, the polka dots are connected by lines, resembling a molecular chain) such as chemical and advertising logos.
The two works by visual artist Kyle are also interesting. His “Not harmful to humans” is an acrylic painting on plywood with cubic forms-reminiscent of Piet Mondrian- in dark shades of blue that fade out into cut-outs of images showing various pictures of homes, people lying down (asleep, dead or strapped up on a bed) and, in the middle, a dominating image of a mosquito. His “Trace Elements” using spray enamel, acrylics, plastic buildings and organic miniature trees on a table of plywood, recreates a suburban ground that looks like a board game, surreal and fantastic in its own nature. Kyle describes his work as a combination of made and found objects with painting which become constructions that are “frozen moments of dimensional human drama.”
The only installation piece at the gallery is by Alexandria Searls from Virginia. Her “Meadowcreek Tire Installation Project” compiled with maps and plans, an “e-mail battle” with the governing authorities and real rubber tires. There are e-mails taped all across the walls of the installation with words written in red chalk across some of them : “Save the park, don’t pave it!” and “Keep going going going”.
High school students from the Living Education Center for Ecology and the Arts in Charlottesville have made a video of an art installation they completed in protest of a road. Tires aligned along the proposed path of the road, accentuate the damage that would take place in the environment. Searls comments about her installation at the gallery: “It shows, in tires, what will be lost from a community when yet another road is built to aid our hurried car culture, more interested in getting somewhere without hindrance rather than in having somewhere beautiful to go.”
These are only a few of the remarkable pieces presently being shown. Unfortunately, many students do not hear about the events at the New Gallery due to scant publicity on campus, which may be due to the inconspicuous location of the gallery. A frequent gallery visitor commented that most of the people who have visited the exhibition were affiliated with the art department or the local art scene.
This establishment, often under-exposed to Miami’s college students, is a vital institution that can help nurture the development of art on campus and serve students as a intrinsic link to the art community outside the university. Moreover and more importantly even, the New Gallery is an interactive forum itself that can encourage a greater awareness of the contemporary scene in visual arts through a number of lectures and diverse programming. Students need to become attentive to its importance.
Gache mentioned that the gallery might be undergoing some renovations in the future, but could not discuss specifics at this time. In the meantime, the gallery will be featuring three more exhibitions before the end of the semester. The next one will expose works by Anthony Barboza with a series of provocative and controversial photographs by the well-known New York photographer. After that, some fine arts students will exhibit their work. Plans for the last exhibition are still being discussed. The gallery is open from 12 to 7 p.m. on Thursday and 12 to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday.