Land Mark Contemplates Man and Nature

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Author: Kaitlyn Reeser

 

Land Mark, the featured exhibition in the Weingart Gallery this month, showcased the talents of four professional local artists whose work centers upon the contrast between natural and unnatural structures.

The show featured the works of James Griffith, Mike Pace, Aili Schmeltz and Christian Tedeschi. Land Mark was free and open to the public from Feb. 17 to March 17. Although the show is now closed, it was well-received by both the Occidental community and visitors from off campus.

“Land Mark presents artworks by four artists all residing in the Northeast Los Angeles area whose work engages the intersection of nature and the built environment,” Occidental’s gallery manager and curator of the show Jason Manley said.

The show, which featured both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional work, employed the use of a wide variety of artistic techniques, ranging from traditional methods to artistic procedures invented entirely by the artists.

As high levels of balance and contrast can be found between the artists’ individual styles as well as in their chosen subject matter, Land Mark is intended to be neither entirely form- nor content-based, but instead to showcase the ways that various mediums and processes can be used to explore a common theme.

In his traditional photography, Pace juxtaposed the tall structures of Los Angeles palm trees with the similar forms created by light posts. The bluish tint of his photographs seemed sometimes atmospheric and other times almost chemical. Like the other artists featured in Land Mark, Pace’s subtlety invited his viewers to investigate his work and form their own conclusions about its meaning.

“Tedeschi’s ‘400 years,’ a wall-mounted piece that resembles a cross-sectioned tree trunk, is actually a mass of toilet paper rolled into one giant ring and sealed in polyurethane resin,” Manley said in his press release for Land Mark. Another of Tedeschi’s sculptures was created by spinning plastic off of a washing machine agitator.

Several of Griffith’s pieces showcased in Land Mark are large, striking oil paintings that depict natural landscapes covered in thin plastic. From another of his series, the show also displayed several of Griffith’s high-contrast paintings that were created entirely with tar.

“The show explores different ways local artists grapple with the interconnected relationship of humans and nature, whether it is in conflict or harmony.” Manley said.

While Pace, Schmeldtz, Tedeschi and Griffith address the topics of nature and the man-made world quite differently, their pieces still maintain some common ground in their content. Each of the artists’ statements mentions a duality between the natural and the man-made. Even so, the show certainly allowed for a high degree of investigation and interpretation. Manley suggested that many of the works in Land Mark are reflective of recent natural disasters such as the gulf oil spill.

Land Mark was largely influenced by location, not only in its subject matter, but also because all four of the featured artists are based out of Northeast Los Angeles. The studios of the artists featured in Land Mark are all in close proximity to the Occidental campus, some even within walking distance. In many ways, Land Mark was intended to emphasize the connection between on-campus and off-campus art communities. “One of the gallery’s main functions is to bridge the Occidental community to the rich surrounding art community,” Manley said.

Certainly, the show generated a great deal of interest within the Occidental community for its careful organization and innovative subject matter. With one professional show happening in the Weingart gallery per semester, students can expect the opportunities for interaction with influential artists such as those featured in Land Mark to broaden with time.

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