Once again, the School of Art and Design’s Work Gallery at 306 State St. quietly houses an astonishing exhibit without much fanfare or advertising. That’s especially a shame this time because this is one of the strongest, most compelling exhibits they’ve had in some time – a fantastic start to the year.
“The Studio and the Lab: the Intersection of Art and Science” is running through Oct. 5 and is just as its title says. Anyone who’s seen Hubble Telescope shots of the Helix Nebula, microphotographs of bacteria or computer-generated paintings understands there’s plenty of creative inspiration in the scientific world. On a simple, aesthetic level, science-based art looks cool.
But this exhibit and its pieces aren’t so simple (though several are certainly very cool). As the heavily belabored placards imply, there is a sophisticated air of interpretation and innovation throughout the works. There exists on another level a certain quirkiness, where serious science is laced with the peculiar, the personal and the fantastic: sculpture inspired by pregnancy-induced hallucinations; man’s conflict with nature told through simple, geometric combinations of wood and nails; and evolution interpreted through construction-paper animation. Both sides of the exhibit – the artistic and the scientific – are equally accessible.
Works such as the magnetoscope, which is a beautifully bizarre lesson in the properties of ferrofluid (magnetic particles suspended in oil, pictured to the left) are pure, unadulterated science. It’s not necessarily “art,” but it’s wonderful and hands-on. But the surreal “Sarcinae de Corpus,” a ceramic sculpture with an accompanying glass tube of unsettling wax molding, succeeds in two ways. It’s intriguing art and a starting point for dialogue with the viewer outside of art history-specific tropes (in this case, disease as it relates to the mind, the body, social status, etc.).
The exhibit has a personality – an unusual cohesion. A few feet from the magnetoscope is a map of Napoleon’s march to Moscow. The march begins as a thick band representing nearly 500,000 troops. As the march progress, it slowly narrows, representing in utmost simplicity the unbelievable mortality rates of Napoleon’s historic failure. “Neo/Ethnocentrism” is a small photograph of a globe with the United States cut out and, with Alaska as the head, it looks like some sort of duck walking out of the globe. The photo is intimate and personal. The larger theme of ethnocentrism is scaled down and unpretentious.
It’s a good omen that Work’s first exhibit of the term is as strong as this one. An exhibit of alum art is set to follow in October, and if it’s anything like “The Studio and the Lab,” we’re all in for a treat.