Invaded Spaces at Lehman College
People visiting the Lehman College Art Gallery to view “Space Invaders” can catch the exhibit’s take on interior decorating even before stepping into the building. Vinyl blades of grass sprout around the exterior outside the entrance. Transparent, colored banners drape from the roof and catch light while swaying in the wind. The effect is one of spatial awareness, subtly provoking visitors to pay more attention to their surroundings. The aim of “Space Invaders” is to make use of the space inside and outside the Lehman Gallery, focusing on physical spaces as the canvas for individual expression.
Eighteen artists participated in the exhibit organized by guest curator Karin Bravin. Most used mixed media, and objects like silk, burlap, wood and steel in their installations. Artists mostly set up in the gallery rooms, but two pieces are on display in the garden outside in the front of the building. The conceptual works include lilliputian people inhabiting a life- sized kitchen in Halley Zien’s People and Lisa Kellner’s abstract silk blood cells in The Seepage of Proserpine.
Adorning the west corner of the gallery is the experimental photography of visual artist Diana Cooper, a 1997 Hunter MFA alumni. Replicas of the building’s exit signs and air vents sit side by side with their brethren. The wall near the emergency door is outfitted with Cooper’s own version of electrical wiring outlined by corrugated, grid-shaped plastic. Coopers said, “What’s important is that everyone has their own experience. I would want it to draw you into a world that is somehow unfamiliar.”
Cooper is inspired by everyday objects and experiments with materials like Coroplast, a stiff corrugated plastic. Various objects make up her installation like a small igloo-shaped dome of a slurpee on the wall which reveals tiny raindrops when peeked into. It is elements like this that pique the curiosity and promote attention to details.
Across the room are Robert Melee’s and Abigail Deville’s spaces that remind people of home. Melee’s work is mysterious while Deville’s has her personal story attached. A green door in an orange frame stands in the middle of a dissected cabin. The tie-dye look of enamel is painted on the walls and ceiling panels as if to create the psychedelic home of a lumberjack, representing a wacky version of Melee. Next door, in a smaller connected space, Abigail Deville has created a chaotic underwater scene of a room made uninhabitable by debris. Blue tarp covers the jutting spikes of wooden planks in an attempt to conceal a spooky mold of the artist’s face bursting from a sofa. A television in front of the sofa is left on static to create an ominous atmosphere. Susan Hoeltzel, director of the Lehman Art Gallery, said, “The sofa belonged to Abigail’s father, and the picture near the front of the installation is a tribute of her grandmother who recently passed away.”
The art installations in “Space Invaders” also pay homage to the architecture of the Lehman College Art Gallery, which was designed by Marcel Breuer. A crocheted “dress” wraps the main pillar in the lobby in Sheila Page’s Fancy Dress for Marcel’s Concrete. Another artist created a plexiglass version of the same pillar, recreating Breuer’s inverted umbrella form. The installations utilize the structures in a thoughtful, collaborative way.
It is a testament to the artists’ talents that they can still express their ideas on an entire wall or ceiling beyond the traditional paint or pencils. There are no framed wall paintings or statues on marble slabs centered precisely in the middle of rooms. Instead, the installations peek out, climb up, and hang from spaces. This original exhibition gives the spotlight to oft-neglected space and successfully incorporates the gallery itself as a piece of art.
“Space Invaders” runs until January 9th at the Lehman College Art Gallery.
All photographs by Janelle Rose and Bruce Le