Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Art at the Katzen

I think there comes a time in the tenure of any artist where he or she thinks to his or her self: what am I doing? With all the great artistic advancements of the last century, the only downside is what to do. This is a perplexing issue for any artists who wants to routinely sample at the veritable intellectual and visual buffet that compose the fine arts.

Near the end of this inaugural year, if there is anything that Jack Rasmussen, director of the galleries in the Katzen Arts Center should be most proud of it is the ability to push a few buttons. Throughout the year the exhibitions at the Katzen have become increasingly provocative both in form and in content.

Opening Wednesday, April 19th is an intriguing collection of work entitled Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement. As the Katzen website states, "On tour from the San Jose Museum of Art, this AU Museum exhibition focuses on art from the West Coast to examine the interconnected history of art and politics since the Cold War. Free speech, Vietnam, black power, gay rights, Chicano liberation, the environmental movement, poverty, immigration, and nuclear war are among the issues explored."

While it certainly cannot be said of all the work on display in the exhibition, there are key moments when walking through that it will not be uncommon for either the artist or the pedestrian to exclaim "I really should be doing more of this in my work." This might resonate more specifically with some artists who would otherwise pooh-pooh the idea of incorporating politics into their art for something more (seemingly)innocuous as space. While certainly space deserves as much attention as some artists will give it, it cannot be denied that art also functions as a means of communication. Visual Politics communicates symphoically, bursting forth with momentous bravado and passing subtly in melodious rhythms.

It should seem only natural then to equate an extension of Visual Politics reflecting in the work of the MFA Thesis exhibition - though this relationship is purely coincidental. Overall, what appears to be occurring is American University's shift away from what was once a traditional painting program, pushing between landscapes and abstraction, into something more encompassing involving the intellect as much as the retinal. It is unfortunate that the thesis work will only be on display for a brief period of time, because it is every bit as interesting as the work shipped over from San Jose.

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