Friday, April 2, 2010
10th International Shoebox Sculpture Exhibition 2009-2011
Looking for something fresh and different in the art exhibition world? Why not venture 20 minutes north and stop in at the Emily Davis Gallery on the campus of the University of Akron until April 17th because this show has some gems and some real stinkers. Organized primarily by the University of Hawaii’s Art Gallery and a bunch of other foundations, this collection has works from 15 countries and 24 states for a total of 81 pieces with 5 of them being interactive. To activate them however, you must ask a white gloved gallery sitter to do it for you.
Shall we do gems or stinkers first? Since personal opinion plays a major role in what is good and what is not so hot, perhaps it best I give out some “awards” instead.
Winner of the “Cute but Campy” award is to a ceramic Chinese garden gnome entitled “Chinese Gnomes are taking over the world”. It looks just like the lovechild of the Travelocity gnome and a Keebler elf. I’d put one in my yard. I should point out that all pieces in this exhibition are supposed to be the size of a standard shoe box. Some of them must have feet like my youngest son (size 17) as the sculptures are a bit bigger than “standard”.
Winner of the “That’s Just Sick” award is to the brick of human hair. Again, an entry from China (just what are they doing over there?) this brick (under plexi) is about 18” x 9” x 4” and looks like an interesting surface until one reads the card. Then it is just gross. I thought stuff like this went out of fashion after WW2.
The “Just Plain Stupid” award goes to the box painted black with blobs of acrylic paint applied here and there. An artist from NY (and remember people, just because you are an artist in NY does not mean you are any good) did this piece and entitled it “Box of Blobs found at the Edge of Space 08”. Personally, I think he found it on his studio floor, but it could be he “travels to outer space” a bit too often (huff huff).
Let’s throw a gem in here shall we? “Autumn Sentinels: Kyoto” by Reiko Brandon of Hawaii is a wonderful piece of sculpture that utilized skill, scale of materials, vision, and craft to create three mini towers of visual delight with meaningful overtones. A common thread in the show is the use of found objects (mostly discarded toys) upon which to build a piece. Ms. Brandon did not fall victim to this device. Okay, back to the stinkers, they are much more fun.
The “Are You Kidding Me” award goes to Kamila Szczesna (which took me three times to write correctly in my notebook) who basically presents a white ceramic turd in a velvet lined wooden box complete with brass plaque. Her statement concludes with ….”Sometimes I reduce the work to a mere mark left to prove my own existence.” Okay… shall I be really snarky and point out that lots of dogs do that in my yard and I’m not presenting it in a velvet box as a gift of reverence.
The “Bit Twisted” award goes to a miniature metal wheelchair in which the spokes are female figures spread eagled on the rims. I will look for this guy in the upcoming “Uncensored” show. It has good craftsmanship and obviously took time and effort, but in my personal opinion (highlight that), I find it just a bit disgusting. Maybe I still hold on too tightly to the belief that talent needs to be tempered with discretion. Now if you don’t have any real talent, then go ahead and bronze your waste and put it in a box!
The “Nice Piece But Your Title Gets You a Squint of Distain” award goes to the intricate box entitled “I’ve given you my arm to break again”. Okay, why the negative? Can’t the piece exist without this? There are no interactive parts which make any reference to this title; it is almost used to just get you to look at it longer, which I did, to find some relevancy. Which reminds me that I hate artist statements which do no justice to the work at hand, when an artist has to resort to the “I made this ‘thing’ and now I have to justify it as art” crutch, it might as well be a turd in a box.
Only a few more to go….
The “Best Leave it to a Master” award is for all the beaded pieces that attempt to recreate the technique of Lisa Lu, the all time queen of beaded objects. The “Okay That is Funny!” award goes to a plastic elephant in a crocheted mouse costume standing on petit point balls. The long pink tail echoes the elephant’s trunk which sounds silly until one sees it. “Best Social Commentary” goes to the botox compact kit. And finally, the “What is That?” goes to something that looks to be carved out of butter from the county fair, but I am sure it has something significant to offer. I won’t comment on the pieces that are right out of a high school art curriculum (make something out of another material so it looks just like the real thing, take something small and recreate it bigger, and tie up some rope and put it on a shelf….) oh wait, that last one is not from HS, that is from another place altogether, my garage.
So by now you must think I hated the show. Nope, I loved it. I spent a good hour or more reading all the cards and examining all the details. It kept me entertained, expanded my appreciation for minute detail and good craftsmanship where it existed, and does a fine job of covering the global survey of shoebox sized sculptures. Makes for easy shipping too, that’s for sure.