Contemporary Art Gallery pays tribute to retired professor Gus Mazzocca
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 22:02
In honor of former UConn professor Gus Mazzocca, the Contemporary Art Gallery in Jorgensen is hosting a retrospective exhibit titled “Four Decades / Four Generations,” which focuses on the teacher and artist and includes works from four of his students, each from a different decade.
Designed to make viewers start from the left side of the room, then directly to the back, once to more the left and up to the front right side of the room, the exhibit begins and ends with two works by Mazzocca himself. Starting off the show is his piece titled “Haitian Dance Fantasy (Gede’s Shadow – a Portrait of Ann Mazzocca),” which features a mixing of vibrant colors and various textures, in the middle of which lies an undefined portrait of Mazzocca’s wife. Each background of the artists and descriptions of their work included quotes from the artists themselves about the influence Mazzocca had on their careers and passions, often including the first time they encountered the professor and how he encouraged them to grow in the mediums they’ve worked with.
Representing the 1970s, New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin is the first of the four generations displayed in the room. Having printed his first publication in 1976, which appeared in the New Yorker a year later, he has since been featured in numerous books, textbooks, and anthologies. His display features works like “There’s my wallet…right where I left it,” which depicts aliens landing on Earth for low prices and large varieties of clothing, and “Closure,” a sketch of a wolf sitting next to Red Riding Hood and saying, “And all this time I didn’t think you’d understand why I ate your grandma and took her place.”
Though Maslin’s work added humor to the start of the exhibit, 1980s artist and musician Aron Namenwirth had works that were bold, graphic, and politically charged. Including painted and pixelated depictions of Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush, his seven paintings were stretched along the back wall of the gallery, forcing viewers to look at the pieces from afar first. This allows the audience to know what the painting is about, and then allowing them to take a closer look to see how the colored squares form the larger picture. Influenced by the rise of the digital age and consumerist culture, Namenwirth uses visual arts as a democratic force.
Tyler Starr’s work with poetics and mythology from places like Lover’s Leap to places named for demons and other spirits depicted the 1990s decade in the gallery. He focuses on what he describes as the “projection of everyday desires into our environments” that echo and resonate with people through places and times. His five stencils in display, part of a collection titled Hell and High Water, are mostly black and white depictions of places with splashes of rainbow colors.
The final artist in the exhibit, representing the 2000s, was Kristi Arnold, who is “fascinated with the grotesque” and finding beauty in places people wouldn’t normally consider beautiful. She breaks down concepts that are thought to be opposites like beauty and ugliness, representation and abstraction, order and disorder, and utopia and dystopia. Her works include Siamese, Combustible, the Elberfield House, the Black Birdcakes in Poland Parts I, II, and III, and more.
The exhibit will be on display until March 15 and is open to the public.