Columbia’s 701 Center for Contemporary Art’s (CCA) first art exhibition of 2020 comes in the form of "The Shape of Things." The exhibition features 13 artists from around South Carolina who created works of art that blend the concepts of abstract and representational art.
For those who aren’t familiar with the terms, abstraction art does not attempt to represent external reality but uses shapes, forms and colors to create images derived from reality. Representational art, on the other hand, aims to depict objects close to how they appear in real life.
Exhibition curator and board chair of 701 CCA Wim Roefs said in an email interview he thought of the idea for this exhibition after talking to others about the differences in the two art forms.
“I run into folks a good bit who assume sharp distinctions between abstract and representational art rather than realizing that the distinction is rather fuzzy,” Roefs said. “[T]herefore, I figured an exhibition that addresses the areas where abstraction and representation meet could be instructive.”
To bring his idea to life, Roefs began searching for artists whose work would fit the exhibition. His job as a curator, combined with research of in-state college art departments, allowed him to find who he was looking for, he said.
Brittany Watkins is one artist participating in the exhibition. She earned her bachelor's and master’s degrees in fine arts and currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina. Her piece uses real objects, including pillow covers and suitcases, to create abstract art.
Another artist, Melissa Stang, creates objects and drawings with clay molded into irregular and abstract-like shapes. The Columbia resident earned her bachelor's degree of fine arts in studio arts and said she wants audiences to rearrange the different parts of her clay sculptures in order to motivate imagination and experimentation.
Alongside painters, wood-sculptors and other abstract artists involved in the exhibition are ceramic artists Daniel Bare and Nick Boismenu. By using real objects such as mugs, bowls and cups as building blocks for larger abstract works, they deal with issues from the environment and consumerism to questioning art itself.
Boismenu said in an email interview he began working with ceramics in his junior year at the University of South Carolina after being advised to pick a minor. However, once he took a few ceramic classes, he switched to a double major in psychology and ceramics.
He and Watkins were involved in a pop up show for Vista Lights when Roefs met them and invited them to be in "The Shape of Things." This exhibition is special for Boismenu, he said, because it is welcoming to the concepts he creates, which are contrary to ceramic traditions.
“I have been turned away by many ceramic exhibitions,” Boismenu said. “While in graduate school [I] even had a professor remove himself from my committee the day before my oral defense concerned that the premise of my thesis might minimize the argument for traditional utilitarian wares as fine art.”
Bare said in an email interview he began college as a physical therapy major but quickly switched to a degree in fine arts. Specifically, Bare found a passion in ceramics.
“Ceramics has this built in blending of science, engineering, painting, drawing, artistic problem solving and personal expression,” Bare said.
One of Bare’s featured works of art is called “Twisty Cups," which involves cups with high saturation in color and bits of real gold. The piece he is "most excited about," he said, is “Eyes Wide Shut," in which he uses pieces of ceramics from local thrift stores and shards of ceramics he found around factories and landfills during his time in China to create a large structure.
Bare, like Boismenu, also credits 701 CCA for making his art feel truly appreciated.
“Most of my works are shown internationally and nationally [because there are] too few good venues in South Carolina,” Bare said. “701 CCA is an exception. This gallery has always shown an interest in alternative view points, and risky mediums.”
701 CCA opened in 2008 and has become the largest non-profit art center in South Carolina for continuous contemporary art exhibitions. 701 CCA is a gallery and live-work studio that offers year-round contemporary art exhibitions, educational workshops and free events to the public. "The Shape of Things" exhibition will be on display from Jan. 16 to March 1. For more information about this and future exhibitions, visit CCA's website.