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Staffer Explores Best New Art Exhibits in City

Leo Villareal – Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

Modern art has warped the familiar into the unfamiliar. Leo Villareal is a “sculptor” working in the 21st  century and thus is using modern tools: LED, Plexiglas, stainless steel and programmed computer software.  Unlike the neon lights of Las Vegas, the sometimes neurotically flashing colors have inspirations other than  aesthetics: math and nature.

Villareal creates original computer software which run mathematical formulas based off of patterns found in  nature. His codes are simple, yet the effect of Villareal’s show in a gallery space is unlike any other. The  cavernous white walls are illuminated by the art itself, changing color as LED tubes glow green, blue and  white; the typical hum of air-conditioning is punctuated with the restless squeaking of strobe lights.

Not simply a flashing lights show, this exhibit is the technological result of a mathematical view of nature. As  Villareal himself said: “The essence of the piece is the code; colored light is the manifestation.”

Landscapes East/Landscapes West: Representing Nature from Mount Fuji to Canyon de Chelly – Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Like standing suspects in a police line-up, the easiest way to compare two things is to put them side-by-side. “Landscapes East/Landscapes West” highlights the contrasts and parallels of art from all ages and medias.

Walking through this small exhibit is like getting a crash-course in recognizing cultural style. Chinese painters would attempt to emulate earlier masters; Japanese work tends to be highly romanticized; Westerners would learn from painting “en plein air.” Eastern and Western styles are so different at their cores that paintings of the exact same subject are strikingly unique. The similar subject matter of certain displays emphasizes the contrast in techniques.

Across hemispheres and through centuries, “Landscapes” demonstrates compelling correlations and divergences. The work in this exhibit represents a national pride and a reverence for the beauty of the natural world.

Heavens: Photographs of the Sky & Cosmos – Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 Photography is about more than pointing a camera at the sky, clicking the shutter and exporting to Facebook.    “Heavens: Photographs of the Sky & Cosmos” is an extensive collection of photographic techniques and styles  that brings a new depth to photographic documentation and expression, presenting a “universality of  meaning” that reads much further than any Facebook post about the colors of the sunset.

Worth noting in this exhibition are the photographic hard-hitters. Next to trimmed panoramas of the surface  of the moon and other galactic textures from the final frontier captured by NASA lies one of Ansel Adams’ most  acclaimed prints: “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.” Prints of Adams’ original work– renowned for their  depth and clarity– are famously expensive, but this particular photograph takes the cake; an original print of  “Moonrise” sold for $609,600 in 2006.

Multiple artists combine symbols to force a new perspective on the viewer. Flip Schulke combines the silhouette  of a woman with the trail of a space shuttle in “Mrs. Gordon Cooper watches her husband pass overhead in  Gemini capsule” in order to examine the largely ignored human aspect of the great space race of the sixties.  Likewise, Lewis DeSoto uses loaded imagery in “Observatory,” projecting a distant star constellation onto a  house in the night to combine the safety of a home and the vastness of the universe, questioning man’s place in  the cosmos.

This collection of celestial photographs offers a broad array of perspectives on the sky and stars. From technical experiments brought to extinction by the dawn of Photoshop, to aesthetics of clouds, stars, satellites, and more, “Heavens” offers a poetic and mysterious depth that might bring a new appreciation for the night sky.

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Emily Donovan

Emily is a senior at East who has happily joined the Harbinger as a Staff Writer and Anchor. Besides would-be writer, Emily is an International Baccalaureate candidate, "theatre kid," and artiste-wanna-be. Read Full »

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