Young Contemporaries and the Salon des Refusés opened last week, celebrating its 25th year in the new Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. This ambitious annual event offers College of Charleston students the chance to showcase and sell their work in a professional gallery.
This year’s juror was Mary Jane Jacob, sculpture professor and executive director of exhibitions and exhibition studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Jacobs selected 90 works of art from 500 submissions. In a long-standing tradition, Halsey Director Mark Sloan worked with studio art faculty heads to select the “released,” not “rejected,” works for Salon des Refusés, which are exhibited in the adjoining hallway and permanent student gallery space of the building.
The exhibit includes art from the five studio art concentrations: drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and sculpture (including video and installations). The lack of a theme, other than exceptional student work, creates both a stimulating and overwhelming vibe. Name tags for artists, artist statements, or a few sentences about each project could have informed the viewers; however, a price list was the only information available.
Erin Hoskins, president of the Visual Arts Club, presented awards for both Young Contemporaries and Salon, judged by artist and Kulture Klash co-organizer Scott Debus.
The overall winner was a stand-out installation piece by Lauren Frances Moore titled “Situation Orientation.” Made of wire and Saran Wrap and shaped like a large, melting igloo with outstretched arms, the piece beckoned viewers to look closer. Visitors ducked their heads to squeeze through the carefully constructed, glass-like structure, and the experience felt both intimate and exposed. A repeat YC award-winner, Lauren said she wanted to create a “natural, fabricated, and interactive environment.” Moore’s second sculpture, “Tower of Blobel,” made with overlapping condoms and plaster, was an eye-catching, sensual, and tactile piece.
Sculpture was definitely an impressive category, and second place overall went to Matthew Bowers for his piece, “Fossilized Pills.” Painting was the largest (and possibly weakest) category with a handful of self-portraits and landscapes.
Drawing — reputed to be one of the college’s strongest departments — saw very few entries. One of the best was Jessica Jarva’s award-winning “Catalogue Card Project,” which captivated viewers throughout the evening. Found library cards are assembled into a large square and held together by masking tape. Some of the cards contain small drawings of cheerful yellow birds and are juxtaposed next to the formal lettering of unmarked cards. A piece of string from Jessica’s studio is tacked in the middle, and stepping back, an image of an old man appears from the frame. “It was an organic evolution which I didn’t think was going to work most of the time,” Jarva said. The end result is controlled chaos, a fascinating blend of texture, language, and shape.
Videos were dominated by male artists and touted as a strong part of the exhibit; however, the screens were located in a small room with limited seating. Many viewers peeked their heads in and, unable to see the screen, turned and left. Award-winner Marshall Thomas’ video, “Cows,” was both funny and strange and worth the wait.
One of the more unique pieces in the 2010 Salon exhibit was Courtney Peterson’s “Theater.” A small box perched at eye level commanded viewers to look inside. Pulling aside a red curtain, viewers were offered an intimate glimpse into the home of an elderly clay couple. Small details illustrated a use of humor through artistry. However, with the large crowd hobnobbing inside the gallery, the Salon pieces lining the hallway were not as memorable, and felt a bit like the forgotten stepchildren.