By Michael Yu, Feb. 8, 2022
The Cal Poly Pomona W. Keith & Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery debuted its new exhibition titled “Black, White and Shades of Grey” on Jan. 18. The exhibit features a diverse group of artists, and provides a platform to bring awareness to current socio-political, racial and ethnic, gender-based and cultural issues.
The artwork featured in the exhibit is provocative. From displays that comment on race in America to art pieces that speak on mass shootings, walking through the exhibit can be a harrowing experience.
“We want students to be provoked by what they see. Some people may think of art as just something pretty to hang on a wall, but it is really about communicating ideas,” said Michele Cairella Fillmore, the curator of the art exhibit.
The theme of this exhibit is “Black, White and Shades of Grey.” The gallery consists of works from artists that primarily work with white, black, grey or sepia tones and depicts different perspectives of similar issues around the world.
Upon entering the exhibit, the most eye-catching room is the Front East Gallery. The room is adorned with porcelain firearms and images of Black and Muslim men and women that give the room a haunting atmosphere and serves as a grim reminder of those lost to gun violence.
The gallery also contains the works of Los Angeles–based artist Mark Steven Greenfield. His pieces depict vintage images of white men in blackface, with an eye examination chart laid on top containing lyrics from modern hip-hop songs.
“Blackface is an appropriation of Black culture, and what I am doing with these works is re-appropriating the appropriated,” explained Greenfield. “The work is meant to be disturbing and stimulate conversations that people may not want to have.”
Scattered throughout the gallery is the work of Japanese artist Keiko Fukazawa, whose work portrays different guns used in different mass shootings. One of the pieces depicts an AR-15 used in the 2007 mass shooting at Blacksburg, Virginia that caused 33 deaths.
The sinister thought of what the guns were used for creates a stark contrast between the clean, white porcelain and the beauty of the state flowers that adorn the firearm.
Moving into the Front West Gallery, the walls are decorated with images of Indian people captured by artist Annu Palakunnathu Matthew. The images are of Indian women and a recreation of the original image with Matthew as the subject. The contrast between the original and the recreation challenges the viewer’s assumptions on which is which.
Further into the gallery, an art piece by Chess Brodnick titled “The Inner Limit” is striking in its unique visual style.
Landscape architecture student Daniel Armas expressed what the piece means to him. “The piece really stands out to me because of the scale and level of detail,” said Armas. “To me it depicts the inner conflict of the artist and shows how important your identity is.”
The Back Gallery features artwork by Paraguay based artist Claudia Casarino that depicts how women and workers are exploited in Latin America. The piece “Ellas 5” portrays workers’ gowns caked with red earth from Paraguay that resembles blood, while the shadows were arranged to appear like hanging bodies.
Another piece by Casarino is titled “Barefoot (not a whore, neither a goddess, nor a queen).” This piece displays an empty white dress that is haunting in its simplicity. These pieces depicted in the Back Gallery lend the room an empty and bleak atmosphere.
The Art Gallery re-opened this August after closing its doors in 2020, and the team worked quickly to make “Black, White and Shades of Grey” a reality. After events such as the murder of George Floyd and the beginning of COVID-19, the curator shared that this was an important exhibit to hold as the campus community returned.
Through the different types of artwork shown throughout, the gallery compels viewers to see the various injustices happening around the world and challenges them to try and make a difference.
“This exhibit was important to create a dialogue with the students on the campus,” said Fillmore. “It is vital to have inclusivity and diversity on the campus and we as individuals need to work together to address this.”
The exhibition is open until Mar. 27 with free admission. To plan a visit the campus community can visit the art gallery’s website.
Featured image courtesy of Michael Yu.
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