‘Pixels’ conundrum inspires fresh student art

‘Post-Pixels’ includes a variety of colorful responses to questions raised by last semester’s controversial installation. (Tom O'Dell).
‘Post-Pixels’ includes a variety of colorful responses to questions raised by last semester’s controversial installation. (Tom O'Dell).

PostpixelTO02For the last three months, their sparkling, spherical presence has been regarded as intrusive or decorative, tacky or artistic. The campus buzz revolving around artist Willie Cole’s “Pixels” has all but disappeared with the opening of “Post-Pixels,” a student exhibit in the Art and Interactive Multimedia (IMM) building dedicated to the campus’ response to the public art.

The works range from literal to abstract reactions to the influx of responses to the art’s installation. According to Anita Allyn, art department chair and supervisor of the exhibit, the purpose of “Post-Pixels” was “to express, reflect, engage, question and respond to the new ‘Pixel’ public art and the passionate dialogue it raised across the campus community.”

Many representations played with the color of the pixels to create alternative perspectives in interpreting and appreciating the public art, all echoing the fundamental question, “Is this real art?”

In four paintings, each differing in style, Anne Ruffner, sophomore art education major, addressed this directly with her piece “What is Art?” Each canvas portrayed the same nude woman, with backgrounds of pink, yellow, blue and purple, the first using realism, the second impressionism, the third fauvism and finally one that consisted of broad circles to create the blurred presence of the woman.

Katie Petrillo, junior art education major, depicted four screen prints brightly colored blue, pink, yellow and purple and generously covered in glitter. Though entitled “Flux Capacitors,” the objects in each print resembled Slinky’s, paralleling the simplicity of the rotund sculptures as representations of pixels.

Encased in glass, “Untitled” by senior fine arts major Liz Marchuk, features a ring in a Tiffany jewelry box, with a large blue ball in place of a diamond. Marchuk humorously seems to question what society considers aesthetically attractive, while challenging viewers to rethink the opposition of the modern style of “Pixels” and the Georgian style buildings on campus.

“It’s Nice To See How Passionate People Can Be About Art,” by sophomore art education major Matt Pembleton, is a passively sarcastic commentary on the negative sentiment surrounding the balls. Pembleton compiled comments from the Facebook group titled “Whoever destroys those giant sparkly balls in the middle of TCNJ is my hero” digitally printed on a foam board. When asked what message he hoped to convey with the piece, Pembleton said he wanted to demonstrate the positive aspect of students’ criticism.

“Essentially I’m saying that everyone who had such negative and crude opinions about it, and ‘hated it’ don’t really realize that they’re really passionate about the art, even on a personal level. And that’s what public art is all about … Just talking about it and causing conversation is what it’s all about,” he said.

“Post-Pixels” features 13 student artists and is open until Feb. 10 in the student exhibition spaces in rooms 111 and 119 of the Art and IMM building.

Katie Brenzel can be reached at brenzel2@tcnj.edu.