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Monday, August 27, 2018 through
Friday, September 21, 2018


Ruth S. Harley University Center Gallery

The Strangeness of Structure

Participating artist Virginia Wagner will hold an artist talk followed by a gallery reception on Thursday, September 6 at 4:00 p.m. in UC 313. The reception will follow from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. in the UC Gallery.

The Strangeness of Structure
August 27 – September 21, 2018
Featuring the artwork of Siobhan McBride, Laini Nemett, Anna Ortiz, Kate Stone and Virginia Wagner.

The Adelphi University Exhibitions Program is pleased to present The Strangeness of Structure, a group exhibition of painting and sculpture which presents the work of five artists who all share a similar interest in depicting interiors, exteriors and remains of human structures. Their shared subject matter is especially interesting when considering that all five artists made the exhibited work independently of each other within the past two years. The human relationship to and experience of space has always been a consideration and effect of art, and this relationship appears to be an especially relevant subject in art today. In an era of environmental crisis, mass immigration, war and changing national boundaries; space and structure have become core variables in the most important challenges we face as a species.

What does the human impulse to organize, display, pile and build represent about our species and is this impulse productive or disruptive in nature? The answer to this question depends on perspective. A humanist perspective argues that it represents our rational ability to solve basic problems of living, providing the opportunity to focus our attention on higher level problems allowing for individual and societal progress. Alternatively, a post humanist perspective argues that this shared behavior is rooted in our genes. Humans adapt to the environment through the use of tools and changing our immediate environment to meet our needs. This behavior has its roots in disruptive play, a behavior shared by all apes, but is most commonly seen in chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative. Disruptive play is the impulse to test materials and objects in an environment through throwing, breaking, biting scratching, etc. This activity was most famously depicted in the opening scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when a hominid realizes that a femur could be used as a club. Through testing and playing with materials we learn their attributes, extend their potential and create new opportunities and environments for ourselves. A built structure, whether it is a skyscraper or a pile of dirty laundry, could also be an external expression of our genes known as an extended phenotype. Other examples of extended phenotypes include beaver’s dams, ant hills and beehives. The drive to create these reoccurring structures is caused by the genes of the individual organism and the shared attributes of the structures reflect the shared genes of the species.

This exhibition doesn’t set out to make an argument one way or the other. The aim is to create an experience that encourages viewers to reconsider how we as humans relate to our constructed environment. Upon entering the gallery, the visitor finds themselves in an sculptural installation by Kate Stone titled There’s No Going Back (and Other Thoughts That Come to You, Watching Paint Dry). This work presents a recognizable structure of studded walls and a small room, however, the elements of the structure are fragmented and skewed creating an altered experience of the banal. The installation’s interior contains an arrangement of colors and patterns of past paint, wallpaper and a framed photograph evoking a sense of nostalgia and bringing attention to the link we have between space and memory. Virginia Wagner’s work is the most surreal and narrative in the exhibition. She is known for painting dreamlike scenarios with saturated colors and deep perspective space. Conceptually her work mirrors the theme of this exhibition and subtly introduces political considerations. As she states: “My work is focused on the conflict between human progress and the natural world. It looks at the impact of a changing climate on human systems as well as our impact on ecosystems.” The paintings of Anna Ortiz have a subtly mysterious quality that also leans towards surrealism, however, most of her works are painted from real life observation. Many of her works in this show were painted en plein air during a recent trip to the Netherlands. Ortiz’s work illustrates a relationship between human structures and the natural environment being concurrently disruptive and harmonious. Laini Nemett paints her subjects the most objectively of the group. She brings out the beauty of the detritus of human structures and construction sites through subtlety exaggerated colors and refined expressive brush work. It is her painterly ability that welcomes us to view the detritus from a different perspective and experience how alluring the mundane can be. Siobhan McBride’s paintings could be the most personal in the exhibition, as they offer a glimpse into domestic spaces. Her paintings depict the complicated structure of a disordered room, a sight that can be both anxiety inducing and comforting at the same time. Reminding us that the human drive towards structure is not a simple one. Whatever it’s explanation might be, it has many forms and its relationship to us is both physical and emotional.

The Strangeness of Structure will be on view at the University Center Gallery at Adelphi University between August 27 and September 21, 2018. There will be an artist talk given by Virginia Wagner followed by a gallery reception on September 6.


» View the gallery photos

For more information, please contact:

Jon Duff
Exhibition and Art Collection Curator
Archives and Special Collections
p – 516.877.3126
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