The hands and minds of 17 California-based artists converged in a mixed-media show curated by the Fine Art Gallery. The gallery will present the artists’ interpretation on the way recreation shapes society Sept. 19 in its first exhibit of the semester, “PLAY: Process, Activism and Subversion.”
Associate professor and Fine Art Gallery Director Mark Johnson said that the book “Homo Ludens” is a practical entry point to understanding the concept of this exhibit.
“Homo Ludens,” or “Man the Player,” was written by 20th century Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga.
The text suggests that play leads to social and cultural evolution. Huizinga argued that the rules that govern every arena, from the courthouse to the playpen, can change when a person makes a deviation. From an evolutionary perspective, this is known as a mutation in society, the reproduction of a mutation can inform a new era of common culture.
Similarly, the art world evolves when an artist takes a new approach to the prevailing style, according to assistant professor of art Michael Arcega.
Dual concentration art history and studio art major Lydia Chain said that Johnson emphasized the importance of documenting periods of art to their exhibition and design class while organizing the show. The first exhibition of the fall semester includes works from artists from throughout California every year, according to Johnson. The collection itself acts as a historical marker of a particular style, Chains said.
According to Chain, the artists featured in this show use playfulness as a tool in creating work that questions social norms in a relatable way.
“These artists have mastered being light handed in their craft,” Chain said. “They’re neither super obvious or off putting in the ways that they’re abstract. The work in this show is meant to be approachable and provoke street visitors to have ideas about art.”
Artist John Jota Leanos uses children’s animation and nursery rhymes to critique imperialism, according to Johnson. Joyce Hsu’s 3D-printed sculpture of herself as Gundam and Hello Kitty contextualizes her identity through popular Japanese characters, he said.
In addition to playful, subversive mediums, fine arts major Ronaldo Reyes said he appreciates the flexibility that play lends to the creative process in communicating a piece’s intention.
“It can be frustrating when there’s a creative clash between what you’re trying to say and translating that into art,” Reyes said. “There’s a truthfulness that comes out in play. It’s the kind of inspiration that comes from remembering what it’s like to be a kid and trying new things.”
John Mills’ abstract, free-form line paintings and Conrad Ruiz’ watercolor painting of two men riding a giant shark exemplify informed technique while appealing to an aesthetic visual experience, Chains said.
“The general feeling behind this show is continuing people’s appreciation for art,” Chain said. “These artists are serious about their work in a way that isn’t condescending or pretentious. It’s not just for art nerds, it’s for everyone.”