Home Feature New Exhibition at Montclair State Transforms Traditional Art

New Exhibition at Montclair State Transforms Traditional Art

by Sekhena Sembenu

Over the past year, the world has been in flux, socially and politically. At Montclair State University, the new exhibition, “Tech/Know/Future: From Slang to Structure,” encompasses works of art that challenge the way society thinks.

Megan C. Austin is the director of University Galleries at Montclair State. Her focus is to create art spaces that will awaken students’ curiosity and challenge them to think critically.

Megan C. Austin explains the importance of vulnerability.

Megan C. Austin explains the importance of vulnerability.
Photo courtesy of Karsten Englander

“I’m interested in not just catering to the art students, but really immersing the entire university and using art in a way as object-based learning and teaching,” Austin said. “Anyone can feel this is a place for them.”

“Tech/Know/Future: From Slang to Structure” is an exhibition curated by Tom Leeser, the director of the Art and Technology Program and the Center for Integrated Media at CalArts. When curating this exhibition, Leeser strived to showcase art and essays that were transdisciplinary by incorporating technological systems that take the viewer through the past, present and future.

Tom Leeser describes how he curated Tech/Know/Future: From Slang to Structure.

Tom Leeser describes how he curated “Tech/Know/Future: From Slang to Structure.”
Photo courtesy of Karson Englander

“This exhibition is positioning itself within a context of in-between moments,” Leeser said. “We are experiencing a period of accelerated transition.”

Carla Gannis is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York who examines physical and virtual spaces, the environment and uses digital imagery to reference history.

In “The Garden of Emoji Delights,” Gannis had many ideas.

“One intention of my transcription was to mash up popular historic and contemporary sign systems and to diversify and expand the emoji lexicon through this process,” Gannis said. “The current speed of technological advancements suggest biological organisms and the environment are irrevocably changing.”

Carla Gannis: The Garden of Emoji Delights.

“The Garden of Emoji Delights” by Carla Gannis.
Photo courtesy of Karsten Englander

Leeser believes Gannis is implementing innovative ideas and setting a great example in regards to gender diversity in the workplace.

“As a female-identified artist, she is intervening into a history that has been male-dominated for hundreds and hundreds of years,” Leeser said. “She subverts the art historical painting with a contemporary language that’s new and by doing that, she brings forth questions regarding the climate crisis, history and male dominance of history, specifically art history and feminist assertion within the context of vulnerability.”

On Monday, Sept. 20, Gannis joined Austin via Zoom for an art forum class to converse with students about her exhibited work of art.

During this conversation, Austin gravitated not toward the content of the work but more so the creation of the piece and the aspect of risk-taking.

“It’s about not being afraid to fail,” Austin said. “One of the biggest things artists can do is show that they are taking a risk and being fearless. It’s a vulnerable place to make work or put together an exhibition and open it up to the public.”

Sondra Perry, another artist featured in the exhibition, utilizes avatars of her body.

Sondra Perry: ffffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Sondra Perry’s “ffffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”
Photo courtesy of Karsten Englander

“The work is about the body, her body and it is in one way a self-portrait, but not quite a self-portrait,” Leeser said. “She is looking at the physical form of the body, but also what constitutes identity. Over time, it liquifies and deconstructs the body into abstraction.”

When Nayelli Rios, a freshman psychology major, first walked into the exhibition, she was surprised to see a significant amount of technology.

“It is quite different from any other exhibition I have been to,” Rios said. “It has more screens than your typical art gallery.”

For Rios, Perry’s art piece stood out to her the most.

“Compared to the other artwork on display, it’s very ‘out there,’” Rios said. “It’s very futuristic.”

Tom Leeser and Megan C. Austin stand in front of exhibit display wall.

Leeser and Austin stand in front of exhibition display wall.
Photo courtesy of Karsten Englander

The exhibition had its opening day on Sept. 23 and is available to the public until Dec. 11, 2021. It is located in the George Segal Gallery and is also spread out throughout campus with QR codes. If one can’t make it in person, they can view it digitally on Montclair State’s website.

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