On Oct. 9, the entrance of the Desotorow Gallery was crowded with people not fighting to get in but instead hesitating, for the gallery had no paintings on the wall.
On the floor, seven undergarment-clad figures sprawled out so realistically rendered that viewers hesitated to walk on top of them. Above them hung a canopy of translucent white sheets of Mulberry paper strung together by clear fishing wire.
“Explorelations,” a collaborative installation by SCAD students Ramona Todoca and Capucine Gros, opened Oct. 9 in Desotorow Gallery where the viewer becomes sandwiched from above and below, forced to interact not only with the artwork but also with each other.
The figures on the ground are traditionally rendered, despite their intimate apparel. Lying on large sepia-toned squares, the figures are half-rolled on their sides and backs as if they’re lying in bed, intensifying the intimate atmosphere of the installation.
An awning of Mulberry paper floats above the head of the viewers. On each sheet, there is a mix of hazy black and brick red squiggles that race across the paper, and technically accurate typographic letters also appear firmly planted. Sky blue appears sparsely in tiny geometric shapes or swift scribbles which helps bring the colors of the ground figures into the ceiling sheet to unify the entire installation.
While art has always been about the interaction between the viewer and the artwork, the hesitation of viewers to take the initial step onto the paintings suggests that our relationship with art may need to be revisited.
It is so ingrained that art should be viewed from afar and not interacted with, that “Explorelations” calls for a rewiring of the senses. It asks you to do nothing but interact with the art, to step on paintings and gaze closely into the mulberry sheets.
The interaction with “Explorelations” parallels our interaction with the past and the future. The figures on the ground are tangible and definite, embedded in the ground as memories of the past are embedded inside of us. They are realistically rendered but still shown through the artist’s eye, just as our memories are accurately recorded but only as we interpreted the actual experience.
The canopy of paper shows abstract thoughts in the squiggles with a few definite pictures in the distinguishable shapes and letters. Most of how we view the future is a haze.
Constant thoughts are more distinguishable but what we consider in passing becomes a swift scribble in our mind. The future is completely unpredictable, as blank as the mulberry paper.
“Explorelations” is an innovative use of space and human interaction. By simply breaking convention by moving the focus of the room to above and below instead of around, Gros and Todoca force the viewer to notice what is around them and what they are looking at.
While the message of the exhibition is refreshing and much needed, the complexity of the purpose is lost to the average audience. One has to be truly contemplating and considering the motives and reasoning behind each component of the installation to understand it.
The average viewer prefers to hold on to the simple fact that the figures are beautifully rendered and the modern, geometric clad canopy hovering above them gives a nice contrast to the traditional paintings below.
“Explorelations,” on display until Oct. 14, is well worth visiting because it offers something for everyone. The introspective observer will appreciate the underlying message and a solely aesthetically-concerned viewer will appreciate the talent and beauty of the installation.
Contact Rachael Schultz