Third set of student art exhibitions mixes media and invites play

Matthew Pembleton's "Reconstructed" includes a sheet made of aluminum cans. (Tim Lee).

If you walked into the Art and Interactive Multimedia (IMM) Building’s West Gallery last week, your eyes may have been drawn, improbably, to a piece of paper.

Unassuming and wholly unremarkable, the 8½-by-11 sheet of paper hangs above the fire alarm. When visitors walk in, it is the first thing they see. Twelve-point black typeface skirts the blank sheet, neatly organized into four paragraphs and capped with a header. It’s even double-spaced. It may cause a double take: What? Aren’t I in an art gallery? I’m not here to read an essay. This isn’t the correct medium!

But that is what this week’s installation of the 4×4 Student Art Exhibition Series is about – challenging notions of just what constitutes a medium for artistic expression.

Above the piece of paper, which is a description of the exhibit it headlines, hangs a broken car headlight.

Jim Tramontano, senior art education major, created his gallery, “Twisted Metal,” around the concept of car crashes. His gallery showcased not only oil-on-canvas paintings of the aftereffects of car wrecks, but pieces of cars mangled in those accidents, polished to a sheen in counterpoint to their jagged edges. Intricate designs snake up the sides of some of these gleaming fenders, bumpers and sides – Tramontano’s additions.

“I strive to show the afermath of (accidents) by painting some of these subjects, creating some new effects on existing metal, and even using ‘found’ objects,” Tramontano wrote in his description. “I want to not only stir up some of the powerful emotions from past events, but showcase the beauty, and sometimes irony, in them.”

Many of his pieces do have a snarky side.

His elaborate designs on many of the car pieces include words – among them, “Smack,” “Bang,” “Accident Report,” “Cell phone” and “Crunch.”

One painting depicts the smashed bumper of a small Toyota, bearing a bumper sticker that reads, “Relax … God is in control.”

His partner in the West Gallery is senior art education major YenHui Sophia Liu.

Her installation, “Whispering Room,” spans the whole of her section of the gallery. It consists of a sheet suspended from the ceiling with colored yarn dangling from it. Attached to every string is a single white Styrofoam cup.

The yarn sways softly, the red, purple, turquoise, orange, pink and yellow strings intertwining, gently bumping the cups together to create a sound not unlike that of whispering.

Across the Art and IMM Building’s courtyard sits an identical gallery containing two more student exhibits. The East Gallery serves as home to “Child’s Play,” an installation by Allison Tumminia, and “Reconstructed,” a work by Matthew Pembleton, both sophomore art education majors.

Tumminia’s gallery implores visitors to actively engage themselves in the exhibit.

“You are invited to engage in child’s play,” large black letters on the left wall read. “Select your opponent wisely, step onto your pedestal, and begin your performance.”

The pedestal refers to Tumminia’s principal installation, a large surface resembling a tic-tac-toe board, constructed from cardboard and wood. Students can stand on it and maneuver the pieces, large X’s and D’s (in place of O’s), into a life-size tic-tac-toe game.

A video projects onto a screen on the wall above it, showing a bird’s eye view of students playing the game.

It is sturdy enough for two students to stand on and large enough for them to move around. Placed squarely in the center of the room, it does nothing if not encourage participation.

Matthew Pembleton shares the gallery with his exhibit “Reconstructed.”

His exhibit consists of a wall hanging made of the insides of aluminum cans, pressed flat into sheets and bolted together with pop rivets, and several sculptures of metal cubes. In the corner sits an open sketchbook propped on a pedestal, littered with equations, and, in the top right corner of the second page, a scrawled admission – “Let it be known, I like to make things.”

“The three sculptures deal with the concept of space, and how we interact with that space. It was important to have them separate and in varying spots, even on the wall, so the viewer can explore the space within/between the objects,” Pembleton said in an e-mail. “Also, at certain times during the day the sunlight comes through the windows and creates really interesting shadows — I placed them so that could happen as well.”

Pembleton took his title, “Reconstructed,” from the way he created the pieces for his exhibit.

“I created the metal sculptures out of recycled steel tubing during an internship in a metal shop last semester and I used recycled aluminum cans for the wall piece. Both projects deal with using found materials and creating artwork out of it, thus the title, ‘Reconstructed,’” Pembleton said.

The next installation of the Student Art Exhibition Series kicks off Thursday, April 15, with four new student exhibits.