Considering art, advertising and kitsch

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 296 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — As Thomas Hapgood, associate professor in visual design, stated "this is a rare and valuable opportunity to view an exceptionally curated exhibition presenting a comprehensive body of design work.”

Hapgood could not have been more correct. In this rapidly ever-changing field of ad design and media communications we the viewers become visually numb to the non-stop inundation of commercially driven product advertising. As we filter through the daily flow of commercially driven imagery we must develop routines to separate the consequential from the non-essential, throughout this process it’s easy to forget the “art” in ad design. Market driven forces impede our aesthetical judgments. Are ads valued and measured purely on their ability to sell a produce?

This was the original question poised by Louis Pedlar. As far back as 1920, Pedlar had the foresight to bring colleagues in his own field of advertising together for this very reason — to distinguish their profession, and judge art for advertising purposes by the same rigorous standards as fine artists of their time. Since then The Art Directors Club has become one of the most intensive groups of ad designers operating in the art world.

Between Aug. 27 and Sept. 21, students, faculty and visitors to the Fine Arts Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas had the rare opportunity to view selections from The Art Directors Club International Traveling Exhibition which combines the best of the ADC Annual Awards winners and showcases top student and professional work across creative disciplines.

Viewing this show in person you quickly forget you’re looking at anything that is solely commercial driven. We’re not presented with the questions of “what is fine art” and “what is advertising?” Instead we’re presented with an experience of “seeing” of looking at “artful” design used in new and unique ways of transcending traditional media practices.

Matt Miller
Anne Kittrell Gallery
Sept. 12-28

The Anne Kittrell Gallery is one of the more discrete galleries found on the University of Arkansas campus, and has recently offered some very notable exhibits. But I was slightly disheartened by this recent showing of Fayetteville native Matt Miller.

Upon first entering the gallery the viewer is confronted with a disjointed display of various painting tropes and styles presented in clashing gold and day glow colors. One of the “star” pieces in the show is one of Matts “trademark” circle paintings made up of thickly applied impasto gold paint that leaves the viewer with nothing more than the thrill of encountering a circle of thickly applied gold impasto paint.

To the left of the gold circle hangs a figurative painting of rock star Lenny Kravitz who’s posterized, painterly effects would feel just as at home hanging in any one of the many freshmen dorm rooms on the UA campus. To the right of the gold circle hangs a painting of a monkey.

It’s as if Miller attempts to reference the Ab Ex school, pop, and post modern approaches to painting, but seems to fall short in convincing us he really knows anything about them. The work reads as shamelessly pretentiousness with nothing original to say in the process.

Miller claims that “his inspiration stems from living in South America in 2005, a short visit to Africa in 2007, and his travels to Colombia in 2009,” yet I’m hard pressed to see evidence of these direct cultural “inspirations” anywhere throughout this exhibit.

A self taught artist with a degree in business and finance, Miller’s work falls in the realm of recent more notable commercially based artists like Thomas Kinkead, Peter Max and that guy that makes blue dog paintings. They are kitschy images that give us all the “precious moments” found in painting, but without all the pesky substance found in art past or present.

As I sat in the gallery a solitary viewer came strolling in. She quickly made her way around the room, surveyed the paintings and then exited the gallery. I couldn’t help but stop this person briefly just to ask her what impression she was taking away from the exhibit. She said “its bright and I like the circles.”

Enough said.

Amber Winters Perrodin
Art Center of the Ozarks
Sept. 5 – Oct. 7

For the rest of the month and into October the front gallery space at the Art Center of the Ozarks will be home to numerous small paintings on panel by artist Amber Winters Perrodin. Perrodin is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has frequently shown in and around Northwest Arkansas.

The multitudes of tiny white panels are laid out in a grid fashion directing the viewer around the space. Each painting carries with it a similar theme. References to the landscape are explored through thinly applied veils of transparent paint, while organic “net-like” circular shapes drawn in graphite hover on the picture plane.

It’s this repetitively drawn circular form that becomes most engaging in the work. I spoke with Perrodin briefly at the opening reception and asked her about this. She explained that “through the repetitious process of drawing this form over and over again she was able to understand it more fully within her own set of self imposed guidelines.”

This amoeba-like form morphs and takes on irregular shapes bending and undulating as it envelopes the horizon line — always in a similar manner yet always unique and different.

As you make your way to the last set of paintings hanging across the room, the size of the format increases and we’re given the bareness of the brown wood panel as the background on which these larger abstractions begin to inhabit. Delicately drawn white lines of paint run in diagonals like a chain link fence flattening out the circular patterns found in the previous smaller works and become something more akin to barriers, and boarder lines. Our free accessibility into the space is now denied and in constant conflict with the surface of the panel.

The exhibition is appropriately titled “Mend,” leaving the viewer with all the connotations associated with tying together loose ends; resolving; putting back together what has been torn apart. Perrodin introduces the viewer to her methodical search exploring all potentials found is these basic forms without exhausting her capabilities or the viewers attention.