Shadows illuminate, rather than obscure, ideas in the LeRoy Neiman Art Gallery’s newest exhibit. “Shadows is Beast,” which opened on Oct. 2, explores the psychological process of image-making through an inventive use of light.
“There is a psychological moment of image-making and image-reading, which is culturally learned,” James Case-Leal, SoA ’14, said. With this exhibit, which Case-Leal organized and contributed art to, he is challenging that impulse.
Case-Leal draws together works on canvas, acrylic, wood, linen, prints, and mirrors from MFA students, their mentors, and outside artists. Armed with a diagram of how to proceed through the exhibit, the viewer plays a participatory role in “Shadows is Beast.”
Brock Enright’s work uses mirrors as a means of literal reflection, while Matthew Stone’s “Multiple Selves (Present Tense)” uses additional shadows placed on top of his shaky depiction of a individual. It is not until this final wall-mounted piece that Case-Leal’s own video projections become integral to the exhibit’s use of shadows.
MFA program mentor Matthew Ritchie also plays with the eye. He reveals the differences that the same image can have when mapped out with different tools, while Ali Harrington, SoA ’14, leaves the impression that the viewers have interrupted something in her work—acrylic drips over it and off of the table.
Felix R. Cid’s giclée print, titled “Bullfight,” constantly changes depending on the length of time the eyes have spent adjusting to the room, as well the viewer’s position in the space. As your eyes adjust to the darkened space, the piece appears as a collection of pixels. As you get closer, you start to notice crowds, faces, and the recognizable elements of a bullfighting ring.
Case-Leal acknowledges that we’re inclined to create images, so he uses the darkness of the gallery as a way to force the viewer to experience the works before reading or labeling them. His “re-setting” takes place not only at the visual level, but also at the cognitive level. He seeks to dismantle the inherent mental judgments that are linked to certain words, ideas, or images.
It is nearly impossible to view the works without the viewer’s own shadow or reflection becoming a part of them. This nuance, imposed by Case-Leal’s video projections, propels the role of the self/viewer into the presentation of the art, initiating a re-examination of the act of viewing.
“Shadows is Beast” runs through Oct. 31 at the LeRoy Neiman Gallery, 310 Dodge Hall.