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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rose debuts five highly anticipated exhibits

Published: September 20, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc., Featured

On Sept. 17, The Rose Art Museum debuted five highly anticipated exhibits, including “Image Machine: Andy Warhol and Photography;” “Omer Fast: 5,000 Feet is the Best;”
“Light Years: Jack Whitten, 1971-1973;” “Minimal and More: 60s and 70s Sculpture from the Collection” and “Collection in Focus: Al Loving.” Ranging from the sexually explicit photographs by Warhol to the soothing, canvas works of Whitten, the debut was well-attended by students and faculty alike.

Viewers stroll directly into the works of Jake Whitten, several of which are being revealed for the first time. Dating to the 1970s, his oversized canvas paintings evoke a sense of calm, marking a period he dubs “a time of reckoning,” in which he erases the past and moves to the future. Quotes from Whitten are artfully intermingled among the canvases, providing a glimmer of insight into the mind of the artist. Scrawled across the gallery wall are the evocative words: “The history of painting is encoded in the light and space of all paintings, produced since the dawn of consciousness.”

“Collection in Focus” features two abstract works by Al Loving, an African-American artist who rose to the forefront in the 1960s and 70s. Featuring the intricate layering of colors and materials on canvas, his works demonstrate the power of using collage as an art form.

As viewers progress through the exhibits, they shuffle through a glass room filled to the brim with silver balloons, creating a sense of playfulness amid the spacious gallery setting.

Departing from the soft, organic nature of canvas paintings, the artistic works of Andy Warhol delve into themes of sexuality, posing a reflection on popular culture. The title, “Image Machine,” a phrase signifying both the artist and the technologies he utilizes, highlights Warhol’s focus on the medium of photography.

The exhibit features a daring portrayal of male genitalia, the graphic image of a penis repeated across several oversized canvases against a single wall in the gallery. Employing black and white photography, Warhol’s emphasis stems from the controversial nature of his subject matter rather than from the distracting usage of colors or intricate mediums. The clenched fist of the man pictured suggests a sense of sexual tension, although his expression cannot be ascertained.

A series of photographs bordering on the pornographic illustrates the nude bodies of males and females in various poses, emphasizing their sexuality. Forcing the viewer to focus directly on the genitals of the individuals depicted, Warhol’s works are thought to be suggestive of his own struggles with homosexuality.

Intriguingly, Warhol’s photographic images are displayed across wallpaper that he designed. The glaring image of repetitive yellow cows serves as the backdrop to some of his works, heightening the emotional experience of the viewer who is confronted with the image.

Departing from the stationary medium of photography, Warhol moves to the medium of film as well. Viewers are confronted with the opportunity to sit on a stool before a short video recording, watching the facial expressions and mannerisms of individuals Warhol had filmed. Despite its seeming simplicity, the short films evoke a sense of emotion, providing an unusual and almost uncomfortable glance into the personal habits of those filmed. A young woman sits frozen with the trace of tears streaming down her cheek in one frame, while the television screen beside her features the image of a man sipping Coca Cola. The voyeuristic sense generated by the short film clips is powerful, albeit confusing to viewers.

Moving past Warhol’s daring representations of the human body, the exhibit “Minimal and More: 60s and 70s Sculpture from the Collection” showcases simple pieces, including those created by feminist artists. Following the dramatic nature of Warhol’s exhibit, however, the sculptures seem lacking in contrast, although they bear social significance to the feminist movement and a taste for minimalism.

Along with Omer Fast’s “5,000 feet is the best,” a video exploring issues of drone surveillance in highly tense areas such as Afghanistan, the exhibits featured at The Rose Art Museum employ diverse media, but are each powerful in their own regard. Although Omer Fast’s exhibit will only be on display until Nov. 3, the works of Warhol, Whitten, Loving and an assemblage of minimalist sculptors will be on display until Dec. 15.