At this point in history when we are forced to grapple with human impact on the environment, it makes sense for artists to create works in response to the nature and heritage of objects created by society.
It is important to note that the materials we choose to use in everyday life can have different enduring meanings, depending on life experiences and culture.
“Material Reckoning” is a visually impactful and dynamic exhibition on display until December 15 in the Emily Davis Gallery at the Myers School of Art at Akron University. Guest artist Sheila Pepe invited two former students, Rina Dweck and Jamele Wright Sr., as well as Cleveland artist Lauren Yeager “to investigate the use of found objects and materials that explore how what we make and leave behind defines us ”.
The resulting exhibition is a material tour de force full of profound conceptual meaning. It is presented in such a thoughtful way that clients have a space to contemplate the works full of color, movement and visual complexity.
Pepe is best known for lockpicking large-scale ephemeral installations and sculptures made from domestic and industrial materials. In this exhibit, Pepe has included drawings that explore the “global genealogy of culture that resides in this hemisphere”. Presented as stand-alone objects, the drawings provide insight into Pepe’s practice.
A large piece of Pepe’s crochet hook is included. Visitors are encouraged to “continue the line” with gear that is housed in a beloved cooler. The yarn is quite wide and sculptural and is reminiscent of the work for which Pepe is best known. It hangs from the ceiling and connects to a wall as well as to the floor. Due to the way the material is crocheted, it has an organic shape reminiscent of something living or somehow taken from archaeological records.
Atlanta artist Jamele Wright Sr. creates some of the most striking works in the exhibition. Using Dutch waxed fabric and Georgia clay, Wright creates great works that have a sense of energy and movement while telling a story.
“Reborn # 5” is a strong example of the artist’s work. At over 7 feet tall by 5 feet wide, this brightly colored artwork commands the eye. The shiny qualities of the Dutch waxed fabric are somewhat mitigated by the artist’s choice to rub Georgia clay into the fabric. It gives more depth to the work and also helps to bond and make a history with a place like Atlanta. The artist moved to Georgia at the age of 22 after growing up in Dayton.
Dweck is a Brooklyn artist whose work draws on her experience as a woman raised in an Orthodox Jewish enclave in the Middle East. Using found objects and hair, Dweck explores ideas of femininity, identity and Judaism. The pieces use intense colors and everyday objects that help to catch the eye.
“Sinner II” is a wall piece that uses matching stockings, synthetic hair, polyester fiber padding, earth, lace, lace ribbon, macrame decals, yarn, rubber bands, and pearls. The more time you spend looking at it, the more time you spend looking at it.
Almost like a pictographic language that has multiple meanings for each letter, the story shared here goes far beyond the first glance. The use of hair and stockings creates a familiar human quality that is uncomfortable to see because your eye continues to seek out a fully realized representation of a human form that never arrives. Instead, we end up with the ideas of human elements like hair and stockings and ultimately it helps intensify what the artist is striving to communicate.
At first glance, Lauren Yeager’s work may seem almost too different from the other artists in the show. However, Yeager’s use of found materials like buckets, cooler lids, pieces of concrete, and plastic pots helps him bond with other artists. Yeager’s sculptures help create a visual “break” due to a slightly more subdued palette and the way the majority of the works stand out in the space, away from the wall.
“38 Buckets” is a stack of 5 gallon buckets that vary in color from dark brown to orange, yellow and white. The fact that these are all found objects, and therefore used, helps to tone down the color palette and makes the work more sculptural and full of potential meaning.
“Material Reckoning” is a prime example of the quality research taking place at Akron University. Thanks to the strength of a guest artist program, this exhibition is able to share the research that is taking place in artist studios across the country. It is worth seeing.
Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected]
Exposure: “Material accounting”
Artists: Rina Dweck, Shelia Pepe, Jamele Wright Sr., Lauren Yeager
Place: Emily Davis Gallery, Myers School of Art, Akron University, 150 E. Exchange St., Akron
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday until December 15
More information: https://www.uakron.edu/art/ or 330-972-6030