There are so many controversial issues swirling around us that it's to be expected that a politically-themed art exhibit would bear the title”"A House Divided.” This group show in Howard Community College’s Rouse Company Foundation Gallery hits so many topics that your head may be spinning as you otherwise hopefully maintain your balance while walking around the room.
All of the political subject matter is topical and some of it is highly specific, so, yes, the current occupant of the White House gets mentioned in some of the artwork.
The electoral process itself gets directly referenced by Shea Wilkinson, who uses an art form most often associated with the folk art tradition, quilting, to deal with the ways in which electoral maps are drawn. The cotton quilt “Art of Gerrymandering - Stolen Voices” also has acrylic paint applied to it in order to present an irregularly shaped form that presumably represents a gerrymandered Congressional district. Five schematic, purple-hued figures are placed against this map, while placed directly below the map are five brown-hued and nearly invisible figures.
This quilt is an example of how an artist tackles a particular issue, but other artists here give a more generic sense of how we’re bombarded on a daily basis with media reports about a host of issues.
Especially effective in this regard is Michael Amato’s photograph “Grandma’s TV Room, October 2014.” It depicts an unpeopled living room whose furnishings suggest a comfortable life centered around the immediate family. The prominently situated big-screen television screen is not tuned into escapist entertainment, however, but has a news report about Ebola. Whether this international news story means much to the unseen family is a subject you are prompted to contemplate.
The endless bombardment of media imagery is the subject for Jason Bernagozzi’s intensely edited, deliberately jarring video “I Believe It Is a Signal.” A montage of news anchor reports is such a confusing, broken-up blur that it’s one reason why you might be getting a headache. This montage ranges from old black-and-white news accounts of long-ago events to much more recent news reports, so you’re reminded that mass media-spawned information overload is nothing new.
Yet other artists in this exhibit deal in various ways with issues pertaining to personal identity. John Patterson’s photograph “Flag Bearer” is a tightly-cropped image showing a person holding an American flag. The person seems proud to be performing this ceremonial task, but the viewer is prompted to muse about ongoing debates involving citizenship.
That photo of a flag-bearing person symbolizes an individual’s sense of pride in being an American, but other artwork reminds us that individual Americans also use patriotic occasions to convey their own more troubled feelings about life in these United States. Jim Zimpel’s “untitled (flag)” transforms a NFL jersey into a hanging flag. It’s not just any football jersey-turned-flag, though, because it’s a jersey for the 49ers and, yes, it’s #7, and yes, the surname Kaepernick is printed on the jersey. If you’re walking through this exhibit with somebody else, you may start arguing under that flag.
By way of gender-related issues, Adrienne Marderoisan’s collage “I Too” presents the image of a single woman who is visually defined by jeans, a blouse and her hair. There is a white blankness where you would expect to see the body and face. Who we are and how we are perceived remains an ongoing discussion point.
And Nicole Guglotti’s “awe/agency” consists of a series of wall-mounted audio speakers in which various female voices offer abortion-themed commentary. The audio levels are kept extremely low, meaning you have to place your ears very close to each porcelain-encased speaker in order to hear these voices. Talk about getting close to an issue...
“A House Divided” runs through April 29 in Howard Community College’s Rouse Company Foundation Gallery, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy in Columbia. Running concurrently in HCC’s Richard B. Talkin Family Art Gallery is the ceramics exhibit “Anna Lawson: The Fire Within.” Go to firstname.lastname@example.org