By Amy Greenberger
The Art, Theory, Practice Show Off featured the work of undergraduate Art, Theory, Practice students at Northwestern. An eclectic group of works from all ATP classes and majors filled the bottom floor of Kresge. Each class anonymously displayed their works.
An outstanding piece stood on its own in a white walled exhibition space open to the main hallway. It consisted of a peach and orange striped lawn chair, suspended from the ceiling, attached to one of those plastic collapsible, rainbow, tunnels you would play with when you were younger. The piece was bright, playful, and really made me wonder what would happen if this artist made an interactive exhibit. The piece was a fun variation from the other works, as instead of creating something from mundane materials, this artist used identifiable objects to make something knew and less definable.
A large human-sized swirl of what appears to be soft-serve caught my eye amongst a crowded wall of bright and colorful paintings. The yellow swirl is placed in front of a yellow backdrop, popping out with the emphasis of a brown border; possibly a chocolate dip? When looking at this painting, I could feel the essence of soft-serve jumping off the canvas. The painting was calm, harmonious, and left me with a feel-good mentality.
For the show, sculpture students created scaffolds for “mundane” objects; one being a (stolen from Cheesie's) ketchup bottle turned rocket ship, drawing on everyone’s nostalgia for late night tater tots and grilled cheese. In addition to the scaffolds, they displayed vessels created for precious objects. The objects shined a light on what is mundane or precious to different people. For the mundane project, one student chose to turn a water bottle into a cobweb of sticks and spiders, while another made an oasis of wood and stones for a “precious” water bottle, representing flowing water and time. This duality calls into question what we commonly refer to as mundane, and the ways an object comes to contain meaning for an individual versus a group or society.
Photography students showcased some classic pensive black and white photography depicting outdoor scenes and both smiling and serious portraits. This nicely contrasted with another photo project where students took photos of life and death: for example, a beautiful body of water appears next to a dirty water fountain, and a package of candy and snacks next to an economics textbook.
No stranger to current events, the ATP department gave a nod to a David Hockney painting that has been in the news this week. Stepping into the painting room, a version of a David Hockney painting, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) from 1972 caught my eye. On Thursday, the painting sold for 90 million dollars, making Hockney the most expensive artist alive. Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist maintains relevancy as its ambiguous appeal to peoples’ wonders and doubts draws in students and art collectors alike. The painting usually elicits some sense of melancholy in the viewer, as the figure staring towards the pool seems to have a sense of displaced concern or contemplation.
Walking to the end of the brightly lit hall, I passed a yellow wall stamped with hundreds of copies of the word original in bright orange paint. This wall was a perfect way to end the show. A lot of students’ works appear as copies, or near copies, of a famous work. This is not because students are uncreative and cannot think of anything better themselves, but because many students are just beginning artists and copying a master is the best way to learn. The fall Show Off left me feeling excited about Northwestern students’ ideas, confidence, and ambition.
And finally, I must note that in order to make all of this happen, students get to hammer holes into the walls of Kresge—an amazing privilege.