by Michael Cusack
While the Gund Gallery’s Color II: Identity and Society exhibition serves as a continuation of Color: Theories and Structures, a show that went up in the space last year, the current iteration moves the discussion of the theme into its social context. The gallery officially opened the new exhibition, curated by student associates, on Thursday, April 23.
The show’s use of color is meant to challenge viewers to look beyond social norms. “Last year we had an exhibition that looked at the artistic use of color from a very formalist perspective — color as a visual, aesthetic force,” Scy Krogh ’15, a Gund Gallery associate, said. “Now we want to look at color through more of a social lens, how color plays a role in the artistic exploration of identity politics. … Color can be used to re-examine our biases and stereotypes. It has a lot of force in how we look at race, and definitely gender, so we wanted to find artists that spoke to color from that perspective.”
Over the course of five months, the gallery’s team of curators reached out to artists, donors and other galleries, and visited collections from nearby institutions, to assemble an impressive collection of about 20 pieces, which includes work from a diverse and international pool of artists.
While each piece explores color’s relationship to identity formation in a distinct fashion, the show’s most valuable asset stems from the interactions between pieces — the kinetic, visibly tangible relationships born from the space. “The act of creating this room of art allows you to come up with more questions and more connections,” Krogh said. “It doesn’t have to be one … cohesive thesis.”
Associate Emily Sussman ’15 commented on the interdependence of the pieces, saying, “When you go through the show, you’ll see how the pieces connect with and question each other to create new commentaries. The works are all meant to work cohesively with one another.”
Provoking difficult but necessary conversation was the motive behind the exhibition, associates said. “We want our audience to walk away with a deeper understanding of how these artists have really tackled the idea of color and race, especially considering everything that has been going on this past year in the news with racial identity,” Sussman said.
Jenna Wendler ’17, another associate, noted the benefit of having this sensitive conversation take place on campus. “It is really wonderful to see that there is this conversation starting and the dialogue needs to continue, but it needs to [happen] somewhere and maybe that can be here,” she said. “It’s bringing a lot of attention to identity in a way that we don’t always talk about or are sometimes hesitant to talk about, so I’m excited to see what people have to say.”
The show will remain on display until July 12. The gallery will welcome contributing artist-in-residence Angelica Dass of Spain, who will conduct photo shoots of members of the Kenyon community as part of her ongoing Humanae series from April 30 to May 7. Humanae consists of portraits from around the world; each picture is assigned its own pantone, which matches background color based on the subject’s skin tone. As Krogh said, “The range of tones speaks to how race is more complex than just one or two or even four races. Everyone has their own color and everyone has their own race. This explosion of diversity breaks down our limited categories.” Selections from Dass’s series are currently on display as part of the exhibition.