Pair of Art Exhibitions at UCSB Explores Human Body, Ruins


Emma Boorman

Photos by Vanessa Paniagua

Starting Oct.12, art enthusiasts at University of California Santa Barbara will have twice as many reasons to visit the UCSB Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Two must-see exhibitions are making their debut. The first is “Figure in Flux: Selected Gifts From the Drs. J. W. and Sue Colin Collection,” curated by recent UCSB graduate Maeve Coudrelle, which aims to explore the changes of the human figure throughout art history and features works from the J. and Sue Colin collection. The other is “The Stumbling Present: Ruins in Contemporary Art,” which offers visitors a chance to view images of ruins presented in a variety of mediums, with pieces from an array of artists who utilize ruins in thought-provoking ways.

“Figure in Flux” will be held in the student gallery of the museum. This gallery offers students with an interest in curating a chance to plan and set up an exhibit. The room is small, but students have managed to make good use of the space.

Coudrelle’s vision is simple but effective. She offers the viewer a handful of pieces from different eras and places that depict the human body. The result is an educational view of how the human body in art constantly fluctuates from realistic to abstract. This show is perfect for both seasoned art buffs who would like to revisit the idea of the human figure and art history newbies who would like to familiarize themselves with the prevalent topic.

As an outsider to the art world, I was slightly intimidated by completely abstract images of the body such as Hans Burkhardt’s “Biomorphic Study,” a painting of mere shapes and colors that are supposed to constitute a body, or perhaps multiple bodies. However, not all the pieces are as abstract as Burkhardt’s. Some more obvious portrayals of people can be admired by viewers who are put off by abstraction. Regardless of how you prefer your bodies, all of the pieces offer a worthwhile glimpse into certain art trends from a multiplicity of places and times.

“The Stumbling Present” focuses on the recurring image of ruins in art. Though ruins have been present in art throughout history, Elyse A. Gonzales, the curator, has selected modern artists to feature. Her interest in the “dark sensibility that incorporates ruins” in art during the last 10 years drives the mood of the exhibition. The artist’s relationships to ruins are as varied as their backgrounds, but there is no denying the daunting, dark feeling many of the pieces inspire.

Gonzales aims to present this ever-present theme in a variety of modern mediums. The diversity of the pieces makes this exhibition an exciting one. Rob Voerman’s installation, certainly the highlight of the show, draws the audience away from highly organized, functional architecture into a scattered, more adventurous structure that inspires imagination. It is difficult to tell what “A Permeable Body of Solitude” actually is, but museum-goers will find delight in viewing the piece inside and out (yes, you can actually crawl in and out of the tiny building).

His silkscreen print, “Pressure,” offers a darker, provocative perspective on the human relationship to ruins. Seeing buildings collapse, explode, and morph in Voerman’s works and the works of many other talented international artists is an evocative reminder of the impermanence of everything human being can possibly create.

To kick off “The Stumbling Present,” a free opening reception and gallery talk will take place on Friday, Oct. 12, at the museum; the exhibition itself runs from Oct. 12 to Jan. 20, 2013. “Figure in Flux” opens on Oct. 13 and runs until Jan. 20 as well.

Considering the central location of the museum (it is located right next to the UCen) and the caliber of the work displayed, I would highly encourage students and art enthusiasts to visit it.