Home Feature University Galleries Premieres New Solo Art Exhibit: “Case Studies 4: Hilliary Gabryel – Side Sleeper”

University Galleries Premieres New Solo Art Exhibit: “Case Studies 4: Hilliary Gabryel – Side Sleeper”

by Rob Ferguson

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the University Galleries premiered its new solo art exhibit, “Case Studies 4: Hilliary Gabryel – Side Sleeper” in the Alexander Kasser Theater lobby. The theater, which formerly housed permanent artwork, rotates its selection every semester to host a new artist.

Allen Macaraeg | The Montclarion

Hilliary Gabryel speaks to someone about the background of the art. Allen Macaraeg | The Montclarion

Queens-based sculptor Hilliary Gabryel’s “Side Sleeper” exhibit features a collection of sculptures built from repurposed antique headboards and vanity mirrors created by Italian-Australian salesman Franco Cozzo, each originally named after a woman. Every piece is designed to facilitate a dialogue about consumerism, gender and the American dream.

Allen Macaraeg | The Montclarion

People looking at one of the pieces of the gallery. Allen Macaraeg | The Montclarion

Curator Jesse Firestone is in charge of the arrangement and presentation of art exhibits at Montclair State University. He spoke about the process behind arranging an exhibit with intellectually stimulating themes.

“The role of an institution is to simultaneously show art and also show it in a way that creates a lifeline or a bridge to an audience,” Firestone said. “I think we’re talking about tricky subjects. There are people who are hesitant to think through what society gives us and what we are expected to just believe… and that’s the power of artists and the power of Hilliary’s work — she begins to take us along that journey of questioning.”

Curator Jesse Firestone describing the process of curating pieces. Allen Macaraeg | The Montclarion

Curator Jesse Firestone describing the process of curating pieces. Allen Macaraeg | The Montclarion

In an opening remark during the reception, Firestone discussed the significance of using art to start a conversation.

“In this work, we’re talking about gender, we’re talking about class, we’re talking about the economy, and it’s amazing to be able to bring students into this world that [Gabryel is] sharing with us, and use the art as an opportunity to really talk about some serious stuff that otherwise might be glanced over,” Firestone said.

In “Side Sleeper,” Gabryel used entirely repurposed materials, found around New York City either online or in junk piles for her sculptures. The use of Franco Cozzo’s headboards, which attempt to emulate ivory and other valuable materials, poses questions about the role of women in society, materialism and history.

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Hillary Gabryel commented on what drew her to create a sculpture exhibit out of objects found in the trash or in secondhand markets.

“I think that throughout my practice, I’ve been interested in working with found objects that kind of have bigger conversations built into the aesthetics of them,” Gabryel said. “In particular, I think these headboards are such aspirational objects, like their aesthetics are really mimicking things from, Art Nouveau, or classicism or even the body. So, I think that that ties into my bigger interest in mass-produced objects.”

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Building large sculptures was a challenge in a small studio space, Gabryel explained.

“All of these are modular,” Gabryel said. “My studio’s probably 110 square feet, so it’s really packed in there, and I have to be really strategic in how I install everything, so they’re all in different parts that I assembled together to make these bigger works.”

Between Gabryel’s solo work and her work as a part of Material Girls, an artist collective she co-founded in 2016, her future is bright.

“This is my first solo show, so I’m really excited to have more opportunities and as for the collective, we’ll see,” Gabryel said. “We just had a show this past November at James Madison University and it was a great experience. I’m sure we’ll keep working together.”

The Case Studies exhibit is open to the public in the Alexander Kasser Theater until April 24, 2024. Gabryel’s art can also be viewed at https://www.hilliarygabryel.com/.

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