Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 49
Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
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Exhibit of Lewis Students’ Work Reflects Life’s Contradictions

Ellen Gilbert

The Bauhaus artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s observation that “the new typography is a simultaneous experience of vision and communication” is aptly quoted in the exhibit “New Student Work: Photography, Sculpture, Graphic Design” in the Lucas Gallery at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, 185 Nassau Street. This eye-catching, thought-provoking show which is free and open to the public has, unfortunately, a short run; it opened on December 1 and closes on December 9.

A well-balanced mixture of two- and three-dimensional installations, the exhibit represents the work of students in Graphic Design, Intro Sculpture, Ceramic Sculpture, Intro Photography, Intro Color Photograph, and Digital Photography classes at the University. Several pieces, like a whimsical shower curtain or the suspended, four-paned window, seem to offer the viewer an opportunity to “look at life from both sides” for at least at the moment. From a distance, the very real looking layer cake with a plated slice beside it looks all too enticing. On closer examination, a mangled fork and knife convey the message that also appears in writing: “Piece of Cake” and “Can’t have your cake and eat it too.” A three-tiered scaffolding that appears to be dripping black paint is similarly disconcerting.

Culinary — and seasonal — teases are also evident in the several small ceramic pumpkins scattered around the exhibit. Each is in a different state of decomposition, and each rests in various sized pools of apparently-leaked, syrupy-looking stuff. The alluring red lips on what appears to be a Gaugin-like native woman are in harsh counterpoint to her severed hands. 

Mixed messages are also conveyed by the multiple strings, pieces of tin foil, yellow “caution” strips, and tissue paper that comprise a brightly whimsical floor-to-ceiling piece, with what appears to be a sock being extruded at one end. Next to it, the visible, interlocking wooden arcs and copper strips used to form an elegant hoop provide an almost austere, elegant-looking contrast.

“God is in the details,” proclaims the message on one of the several posters in the exhibition, and, given the contradictions that abound in this exhibit, it is not surprising to see the handwritten comment “I don’t see him” on an adjacent page. Similarly the message that “Less is more” has been overwritten to read “Less is a Bore.” This is anything but a boring exhibit.

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