In Shades of Black, White and Red: A Review of ‘Expert Witness’

If you happened to have recently dropped by the University Art Gallery, located in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, you would have had the opportunity to delve into the artistic minds of 13 undergraduate students.
Juried by Ciara Ennis, the Undergraduate Juried Exhibition ‘Expert Witness’ showed a variety of artistic works ranging from dramatic wall hangings to freestanding works. Each art piece was strong and dynamic, but the pieces by Jerry Truong, Paul Oshima, Kate McPeak, Annie Dein and Amanda Price were particularly striking.
A few steps into the showroom produced a side view of the floor-to-ceiling piece by Jerry Truong called ‘Manifest Destiny.’ Using only a bright red Sharpie, Jerry created a dramatic and dynamic depiction of railroad tracks. With a closer look, the texture of the Sharpie strokes had a morose resemblance to blood that had been dabbed onto a hard surface.
Continuing around the room, one saw two framed prints that made up ‘Borders’ by Paul Oshima. Both prints depict a border patrol checkpoint leaving the United States. The first print shows a checkpoint at night, eerily deserted like a ghost town. Although one can determine that the scene has been built by hand, one cannot determine the exact dimensions of the components in the scene. It is with the second print that one develops a better understanding of the dimensions. In the second print, it is now daylight, and the scene appears very small in comparison to its surroundings. Toys are used to represent different figures and objects; for example, GI Joes are used to represent the border patrol policemen. Across the top of the building reads ‘MEXICO’ in big block letters. This intriguing representation of the border patrol checkpoints leaves the viewer to ponder the artist’s meaning.
Next is one of the most eye-catching pieces, ‘Divine Horsewoman (Rhizome Meditation)’ by Kate McPeak. This three-dimensional piece consisted of simply decorated opalescent white veils of cloth hanging inches above the ground. At first, one saw variations in the light that shines down from the ceiling, but seconds later, one realized that a movie is being projected onto the floor. With closer inspection, the movie reveals a woman dancing in a rather amusing manner to inaudible music. Based off the artist’s statement, this piece was an extension of her exploration of Stuart Maulthrop’s rhizome theory.
The first look of ‘The Measure of a Man in the Iraqi War’ by Annie Dein produced an impression of dramatic simplicity. The jagged white line that dominates the bold red background has ties to the soldier mentioned in the title. My interpretation of the painting led me to believe that the line represented the erratic heart rate, or the unsteady moods, of a soldier in battle. With a reading of Dein’s statement, it explained that the line is an actual graph of the casualties in the war with Iraq. Revisiting the piece proved to be powerful as one was compelled to ponder the present circumstances and one’s own opinion regarding the ongoing war.
In an adventurous and unique exploration of light, the vine-like ‘Untitled (Corner Piece)’ by Amanda Price is reminiscent of Medusa’s snaky hair. Instead of ending in snakeheads, the coiling cords clinging to the wall end in light bulbs. The cords, as if they were the branches of an ivy plant, branch out from a central tangle of bulbs, cords and outlets that dominate the corner of the room. This intriguing concept caused me to admire the piece to such an extent that I wish I could take it home and use it as decoration, and a source of light
Other pieces worth mentioning were David Chun’s ‘The Cave,’ an eerie video of the typical American pastime: watching TV; Chris Dea’s ‘I Feel Fine’ print series (particularly the print with perfectly aligned guns amid a chaotic background) and Champ McKiver’s ‘A Messenger Informs the Town That the King Will be Arriving,’ an intellectual exploration of the Emergency Broadcast System TV signal.
With a final glance around the gallery, one could see that Ennis had a deliberate visual plan in her selection of the pieces. Almost every piece contained or was solely comprised of the colors of black, white and red. The ensemble of paintings produced a visual harmony that brought a sense of completion as the viewer left to contemplate the artists’ messages.