Head Uptown for spring art exhibitions


Holly Chen

New exhibitions opened this week at MOCA Cleveland, including ones focusing on the body and emotional expression.

This season the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) offers several compelling exhibitions centered around the theme of the body. The exhibitions, organized by Associate Curator Rose Bouthillier, are among her last exhibits at MOCA.

“Stranger,” an exhibition featuring nine international artists (Huma Bhabha, Valérie Blass, Sascha Braunig, Antoine Catala, Ian Cheng, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Cécile B. Evans, Andro Wekua and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye) indicates the resurging interest in the figure. In particular these nine artists are interested in how the viewer confronts the figure. The exhibition features diverse works, including Huma Bhabha’s primitive-inspired sculpture, several digital installations that make use of artificial intelligence and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Van Dyck-like paintings.

The exhibitions are arranged semi-chronologically: When one enters the gallery, the viewer is immediately confronted by Bhabha’s primitive works and Yiadom-Boakye’s figure paintings. As the viewer continues through the gallery, Braunig’s surrealistic paintings are paired with Blass’s surrealistic sculptures. Throughout the exhibition the works become increasingly progressive, incorporating technology and facets of modern life.

Bhabha, a Pakistani artist, creates familiar-looking works based on well-known pieces like Munch’s “The Scream.” She also draws inspiration from primitive art, as well as horror and sci-fi movies. Like Bhabha, Yiadom-Boakye desires to create contradictions in her works. She intentionally omits details from her figure paintings in order to create a conflicting sense of recognition and unfamiliarity.

Braunig, a Canadian artist, also paints the figure. Braunig paints meticulous, illusionistic and obscured faces, focusing on the inner psychology and dream-like states of the figure. Another surrealist-inspired artist, Blass, shares the exhibition space with Braunig. Blass is interested in the deconstructed figure, the figure as a collection of fragments. Her sculptures utilize materials such as synthetic hair and mannequin parts.

The next artist, Catala, worked with an advertising agency. Catala’s interest lies in the ability of people to feel empathy. A push-pull relationship exists between the viewers and the people in the pictures, as some pictures allow the viewer to engage with them, and some close the viewer off. Next to Catala’s works are those of Wekua, an artist from Georgia. Wekua utilizes a more typical depiction of the figure in his work, favoring faceless, androgynous figures.

Dybbroe Møller uses contemporary television to construct a narrative about the body’s desires. His video installation is surreal and poetic. Evans utilizes media in a different manner: to construct an imagined future. Utilizing different characters which exist online, the artist constructs a narrative which explores the ideas of mass media. Lastly, Cheng’s installation uses computer applications to construct a programmed creature which learns and therefore interacts with the environment in different ways.

Besides “Stranger” there are a few other exhibits. “Teenage Lombardo” is a sound installation by Marina Rosenfeld and “abduct” is a video installation created by artist Xavier Cha. This video focuses on expressions of emotion, and the effect of her work on the viewer ranges from disturbing to exhausting.

The last exhibition is a video installation by Oliver Laric called “Untitled.” Laric explores the body in multiple forms; the video is composed of morphs through animations stills. The video is both uncomfortable and nostalgic, due to the recognizable style of animation, which may remind viewers of animated works from childhood.

This season MOCA offers several intriguing exhibitions, which are likely to inspire dialogue as well as offer a respite from the busy life of a college student.

Title: “Stranger,” “Untitled” and “Teenage Lombardo”
Dates: Jan. 29-May 8
Location: MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland)
Price: Free for CWRU students, $9.50 general admission
Rating: ★★★½☆