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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rose museum unveils three exhibits and a new floor

Published: February 13, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc., Featured, Top Stories

This week, The Rose Art Museum celebrates the opening of three new exhibits from artists Ed Ruscha, Sam Jury and Walead Beshty. In Beshty’s exhibit, titled “On the Matter of Abstraction (figs. A & B)” and “Walead Beshty: Untitled” he has transformed the floor of the gallery into a mirrored glass floor where viewers are participants in the art themselves.

Beshty, born in 1976 in London, England, is a longtime Los Angeles, C.A., resident. He has experimented with many forms of art ranging from photography to sculpture. Many of his themes involve examining the condition of today’s material culture, as well as exploring perspective and the use of objects. His work has become the focal point of The Rose, exhibited at the Gerald S. and Sandra Fineberg Gallery.

While his abstract art adorns the walls, it is the cracked-mirror floor that astonishes viewers.

“I reacted to the building, to the floor being part of the building,” Beshty said. “The floor was an institutional choice, not my choice.” Beshty’s astonishing floor, where viewers can stand on cracks, is actually placed on top of the old floor that existed at The Rose. Talking at a reception for the opening of the exhibit Wednesday evening, viewers commented that it seemed to be an experiment with altering perception.

“Well, I don’t want to disorient or hurt people,” Beshty said. Beshty’s makeover of The Rose is fascinating because it looks like an entirely different building. Instead of encouraging visitors to be passive, his floor, combined with the art on the walls, thrusts viewers into an entirely different world, one that demands to be explored from many angles.

While Beshty is a skilled artist, he is not a well-versed orator. The Rose hosted a three-part lecture series starring Beshty, running from Feb. 7 to the 13. Beshty’s numerous and varied skills do not include public speaking. Non-engaging and speaking entirely from his notes, Beshty spoke so quickly that it was not uncommon for audience members to forget the first part of the sentence before it reached its end. He included numerous quotes from other artists and philosophers, without bothering to explain or expound upon the quote and its meaning. While these talks covered important artistic issues, his lecture was too difficult to follow.

Beshty’s talks circled around what constitutes abstract thought and how art interacts with objects. “Flatness is an essential quality of painting,” Beshty said, and then discussed the dispute over where does a painting dissipate into the world of objects. He spoke on the curious nature of painting and how humans are the only animals who seek to represent itself to itself. In this way, it is a sort of selfishness, art as the constant search for representation of true life, but it constantly falls short. Beshty discussed how pictures are not the same as images, as “images are likenesses; they act like verbs and describe a relationship between things. They are meaningless without this relation.” Pictures on the other hand, help out images and “give them body” as well as “helping us order the word, and give them meaning beyond relations,” Beshty said.

He went on to lecture about perception, and how it can lead to abstraction. He believes perspective is something humans are taught to see, for it was invented. He gave visual aids of perspective art on the screens in the Admissions Center, as well as showing Greek columns when discussing angles of viewing. “Pictures [are] illusions rather than a thing unto itself,” he said. Yet, Beshty’s talk was again very difficult to follow, as he sped through it, never looking up from his notes or expanding upon his topics. Listeners’ attention was easily lost, as he abandoned audience members to their confusion.

Ed Ruscha’s exhibit, called “Standard” in the Foster Gallery, concerns itself with everyday objects and the relationships they inspire. Born in 1937 in Omaha, N.E., Ruscha was raised in Oklahoma and held his first art exhibit in Los Angeles, C.A., in 1963.

Associated with the “Pop Art” movement, he has worked with paintings, printmaking, drawing, photography and film. The exhibition displayed at The Rose is a continuation of a show that began at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and boasts paintings, videos and paperwork from throughout his long career. An art icon, Ruscha’s exhibit is given the space it deserves as it takes up the bottom part of The Rose Museum. On display, are exhibits such as pictures with the lithograph “Gas,” created in 1962.

“[This] is the first work in which Ruscha deployed a word as the central image,” claims the exhibit sign. Ruscha’s exhibit is composed of words being displayed as art, exploring how words can twist and turn and become images with deeper meanings. A standout is his piece “Sin” with giant gray and black clouds, created in 1991 with oil and acrylic on canvas. The sign reads that this “Sin” can be read “as either a reference to the Christian notion of being without sin, or as a translation of the Spanish word for ‘without.”

Sam Jury’s exhibit is titled “Coerced Nature.” She examines the environment and themes of trauma though video that is projected onto other forms. Her art is on display in the Lee Gallery, as well as throughout campus in public spaces. A British artist, after receiving her M.F.A. from Cornell University, she served as a Fellow at the Royal Academy Schools in London and an Artist in Residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Jury’s exhibit is very small, consisting of one piece of art on the wall and a video screen. The exhibit boasts of Jury’s skill in many mediums, including photography, painting performance and video, all of which are combined in her video shown at The Rose. Jury’s video is fascinating; exploring many themes such as the pressure the subject of the film endures. Her characters survive despite the stress from being viewed by the artist herself, and then by the visitors to the exhibit. The Rose sign also declares that Jury is skilled at exploring the “fraught relationship between human beings and the natural world.”

The opening itself was very pleasant and well-attended. Food and drinks were served, and it was preceded by another talk by Walead Beshty. Jazz music played in the background as students, faculty and visitors explored the museum’s new exhibits. The atmosphere was exciting, as people explored exhibits slowly and stopped to talk to the artists who were present. These three exhibits will be on display at The Rose until June 9, and they are definitely worth seeing.