The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to view art. Walking into a museum or gallery has taken on a different level of complexity in recent months. Fortunately, for those of you who are still hesitant about heading indoors to see art, there are several outdoor exhibitions being held in Northeast Ohio.
One of the early spring opportunities to see art outdoors is “Import / Export”, visible until mid-June. This is an international exhibition that addresses the imbalances and inequalities of global import / export systems.
The works of 25 artists were selected, reproduced and presented on 84 x 60 inch canvases which were then stretched on a metal frame for display throughout the Kent State campus along the plaza. which connects the university to downtown Kent.
This exhibition does not shy away from tackling difficult topics, including migration, tourism, natural resources, agriculture, manufactured products, digital information and cultural expressions. Fortunately, there are some great labels describing each piece, so you can get a clear idea of the artist’s intention.
Plus, since the show is outside, it takes a bit of an adventurous soul to watch and see everything that has been included. It’s an exploration well worth your time. The QR code printed on the label of each work is linked to a map of the entire installation, making it less easy to get lost.
Eric J. Garcia’s 2017 digital poster “GI Jose” is the first winner of the exhibition. The play looks like the cover of a GI Joe comic book, but GI Jose was used instead. The words “A Tragic American Hero” can be distinguished under the comic book name. The imagery shows an American veteran, clearly in pain, having just received a grenade thrown by the Statue of Liberty. A large comic book-style caption in the shape of a grenade explosion bears the word “deportation” and dominates the middle of the composition.
Garcia is a Chicano veteran whose work “investigates the benefits the United States has reaped through the exploitation of people of color as they are brought into the ranks of the American war machine.”
This play is intended to illustrate the “betrayal of veterans who have been imported and trained to attack on behalf of the United States, to be expelled, exported and disposed of once they are no longer useful.”
More than just a powerful image, the poster challenges many preconceptions about what the US government does and doesn’t do on behalf of its citizens and it does so by presenting us with comic book style in a bold way. and dramatic.
The second place winner is a poignant and beautiful 2013 photograph by German artist Kai Löffelbein titled “Ctrl X”.
Löffelbein is a documentary photographer with a background in political science. Following the e-waste tracks of Europe and the United States, Löffelbein “documents the appalling conditions in which workers, some of whom are children, attempt to salvage valuable materials from waste that is illegally exported from Western countries. to avoid expensive recycling. “
This particular image shows a stack of old computer keyboards and their cables. Dirt and grime covers up and changes the color of every object, all of which appear to have been taken from an office space near you recently. The basic beige color of the keyboards, paired with the scorched umber-red dirt and grime sprawling over them, helps contrast with the cables hanging down from the top to the bottom of the photo.
One of the most powerful and promising works in the exhibition is “Transported Dream”, a 2018 photo-sculpture by Bangladeshi artist Firoz Mahmud. The artist asked workers in refugee camps, labor settlements, and factories filled with immigrants to collect small, dumped objects from their work environment and create eyepieces with them. He then painted all their creations in green to “symbolically envision their dreams”.
In this work, we see a couple holding a small child. All wear green glasses and look into the distance. There is also a small collection of balloons, apparently there to help entertain the child. In this image, they add a visual stop that forces you to take a break and also helps you relate more to the subject of the work. It’s an upbeat and breathtaking image, as inspiring as it is heartbreaking.
“Import / Export” is a carefully designed exhibition that engages you and offers the opportunity to see and hear new perspectives from artists from around the world. It’s also an unusual outdoor opportunity to marvel, engage, and discover in a way only a well-organized exhibit can.
Anderson Turner is Director of Collection and Galleries at Kent State University School of Art.
What: Outdoor exhibition “Import / Export” at Kent State University
Or: Lester Lefton Esplanade, Kent State University
When: Exhibition until June 27.