Tuesday Nights March On with Surprise and Satisfaction

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

If there is any reader that does not yet know, every Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm, following a guest lecture in Room 133, the San Jose State University Art Department opens a new set of five to seven gallery shows with a mix of work that ranges from student-experimental to emerging artist and professional quality. Last week, an elegant opening of Nathan Olivera’s prints and bronzes in the Natalie and James Thompson Galleries was followed by visits to the student galleries featuring BFA and MFA exhibitions. This was one of those weeks when the BFA shows were every bit as exciting as the MFAs. You were bound to find one that you loved.

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Susan Suryapa’s drawings evoke nature and move toward the abstract.

In Gallery Two, Susan Suriyapa presented large drawings on a toothy transparent plastic paper. Some of her drawings are minimal, sublime and lyrical, drawing on phenomena in nature that are often barely recognizable. I am fond of the fragile, pastel images in this earlier part of her series. In the last year some of her work has become bolder, more aggressively black and white, with an energy that sometimes borders on frenetic. They seem further abstracted and focus my attention quite exclusively on the lines and marks themselves, subjecting every mark to great scrutiny. I enjoyed the opportunity to discover the form of a storm or mountain vista or delve slowly into the details of every freckle on the petal of a lily that the more representational works afford.

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Genevieve Hastings recalls a child’s vacations from another era in “Are we there yet?”

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Genevieve Hastings: trailer interior evokes memories through sight, scent and sound.

Genevive Hastings drew an enthusiastic crowd to her nostalgic road trip installation, outdoors, in front of the Student Union fountain. “Are we there yet?” featured an old fold up tent trailer jammed with reminders of her childhood vacations in a lost epic of travel. Blurry family snapshots, old suitcases, mementos discovered on trails and in campsites along the way, and hand-upholstered cushions (probably by Mom or Dad), all adorn the interior. Here and there, earphones and small lens viewers added information. The patio of artificial turf with plastic lawn chairs and thrift-store flavored furniture welcomed visitors. Period travel postcards were the pages of a guest book where guests signed in and left comments for the artist. The entire work was a constant reminder of the age of Route 66, (or wherever you went with your family before freeways), through sight, sound, smell and association. How much things have changed in vacations!

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Hipparchus Missing Pieces, by Kimberly Langston Hagen explores the concept of industry.

Further along, the Herbert Sanders Gallery in the Industrial Studies Building featured the impressive sculpture of Kimberly Langston Hagen. Langston Hagen’s curious combination of porcelain, glass and steel is an investigation into the concept of industry, comparing the 20th C notion of human industry with the notorious industry of insects. In Hipparchus Missing Pieces and Through the Lens she weaves her small artifacts of industry together into larger compositions of formal patterns, textures and shapes that play delicacy against strength. The inner gears and elements seem fragile and frequently mix mechanical elements with the structures and colonies build by insects. They are framed by the sound external structure of steel. A second series of small sculptures, presented under bell jars, are narrative works that include the insects themselves. Langston Hagen’s gallery installation has the sophistication of a professionally culled and carefully placed private gallery collection that is hard to find even in the best of student shows.

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Kimberlly Langston Hagen’s Through the Lens

Ginger Burrell, in Gallery 8, presented a complex exhibition of books extolling the battered yet indestructible femme. Burrell’s show, Always Reborn, was loaded with visuals and anecdotal incidents of the female struggle for identity, control over her own body, to protect her family and so forth. This rich tapestry of small books, their covers and the design of each are both its initial attraction and its flaw. In many cases there is a profound and moving story, presented cleverly, that touches the viewer, as in I’m Telling You Now. In this fold out book, the author/voice recalls how her best friend’s brother trapped her in a closet and raped her as a child. She never told anyone. How many women identify with this story! The book folds up and is stored in a blood red paper mach√© female torso. It is quite powerful, as is a companion book in a green torso that folds out as an origami flower and deals with family. The number of years of work that Burrell’s project represents, the skill with typography, and the amount of information is a remarkable accomplishment and really overwhelms the viewer. Yet, I wished for less information, less ornamental typography in certain places, less decorative upholstery on the outside of the bound books and maybe just less stuff in this small gallery.

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Ginger Burrell’s feminist books in Gallery 8

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Ginger Burrell’s book, I’m Telling You Now reveals the shame of rape.

Back downstairs in Gallery 3, John Pickelle shows us how appearances can be deceiving. Large grids of pixellated images in varying flesh colors are printed out on large papers paper hung casually on the walls. A squint of the eyes reveals that they are all naked people. OK! The emperor (and the internet) has no clothes.

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John Pickelle shows us how appearances can be decieving.

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