Arts and Entertainment | Art

Wallach Gallery, Miller, bring art to theater’s lobby

  • Nia Brown for Spectator
    line it up | The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Gallery has teamed with Miller Theatre to bring the work of artist Rafael Vargas-Suarez to the theater's lobby with a site-specific installation.

Two mainstays of the campus art community have collaborated to bring a site-specific installation to Miller Theatre in honor of the venue’s 25th anniversary. 

Miller Theatre and the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery joined forces with the artist Rafael Vargas-Suarez for the artist’s “Vector Composition No. 1, 2013.” The sweeping, geometrically abstract wall drawing plays with musical notations and staff paper. 

For Wallach Gallery director and curator Deborah Cullen, the appeal of the artist—who also goes by Vargas-Suarez Universal—was his seemingly effortless ability to combine the aesthetic with the technical.

“Vargas-Suarez Universal weaves together art with science,” Cullen, who left El Museo del Barrio in July 2012 to head the campus gallery, said in a statement. “His commission will raise critical questions while being very accessible to a wide audience.”

The installation, which opened Oct. 10, completely fills Miller Theatre’s lobby. The space is normally characterized by its transience. But encircled by the black and white expansiveness of “Vector Composition No. 1, 2013,” it is transformed into one where prolonged idling is acceptable—and encouraged. 

Upon entering the lobby, there is an immediate disconnect from the outside world. Vargas-Suarez’s piece—which begins on the wall facing Broadway and wraps around through the lobby’s center doorway and back—provides the viewer with a chance to contemplate the relationship between line and space. 

Although walls have an intrinsic value in that they protect a building from the elements, Vargas-Suarez poses that they can be redefined through geometric abstraction. The staff paper lines box the room in, creating artificial boundaries that juxtapose those that already exist. 

In the exhibit brochure, Vargas-Suarez touches upon the relationship between music and visual art in his installation. 

“The point of departure for this piece is my constant observation of the public’s commentary that my wall drawings, paintings, and overall aesthetic looks ‘musical,’” Vargas-Suarez wrote. “I find this opinion quite accurate since I almost exclusively draw and paint while listening to music. I pace myself to the rhythm of songs from classical to progressive and experimental musical artists from one artwork to another.” 

The sprawling lines and curves of the drawing present a kind of confined chaos that echoes the experience of listening to a riveting concerto. “Vector Composition No. 1, 2013” flows organically from one wall of Miller Theatre’s lobby to the next—a fluid progression that recalls the music that inspired the work in the first place. 

 “Vector Composition No. 1, 2013” is on display through May 31, 2014, in the Miller Theatre lobby. It is open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two hours before each scheduled performance.

arts@columbiaspectator.com@ColumbiaSpec

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