Preview: Wexner Center fall exhibitions

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Wexner Center opens its three fall exhibits today. Whether examining tiny living eco-systems in grapefruit-sized glass spheres or considering the implications of a post-apocalyptic Hollywood, this lineup features profound translations of environment.

“Elliott Hundley and Paula Hayes share an investment in creating these micro-worlds,” said Christopher Bedford, chief curator at the Wexner. “They have a transportational effect on the viewer. You’ll feel as if you’re in a different world, in the cavern of somebody’s mind.”

Then there’s good old temperamental Mother Nature. Themes of our struggle with, dependence on and responsibility to her hum like bees throughout the Alexis Rockman show.

“A Fable for Tomorrow” is a mid-career survey of Rockman from the Smithsonian.

“People tend to encounter his work one or two pieces at a time,” said Bill Horrigan, the Wexner’s curator-at-large. “To see 40 of them together is stunning.”

Here’s more of what to expect when digging into each gallery.

“Alexis Rockman: A Fable for Tomorrow”

Art and science students will find particular pleasure in Rockman’s eco-aware paintings, but Horrigan said anyone with a big imagination will enjoy this exhibit.

“There are fantastic creatures, amazing colors and the scale is gigantic,” he said.

Introduced to science by his anthropologist mother, Rockman regularly visited the American Museum of Natural History as a kid and studied scientific drawings as closely as he did sci-fi movies.

“That gave him a very unique starting point,” Horrigan said, “but he also went to art school and is enormously gifted.”

In his larger works, Horrigan said, one can see Rockman’s “conversation” with Hudson River School painters, the mid-19th-century artists who flirted with Romanticism in their landscape portraits.

Rockman’s scenes employ a similar expressiveness and lush moody color, although his stories are about things like a moldering Epcot Center rather than a serene New York valley.

Taking root, too, is a message of environmental enlightenment.

“His motto is, ‘Be conscious,’” Horrigan said. “I think he embodies the fact that activism is through one’s artwork.”

“Paula Hayes”

Paula Hayes’ hand-blown sculptures are home to plants, minerals and crystals. The Wex’s show features 110 of Hayes’ minimalist terrariums.

The art is living and will be watered by staff.

“She wants to promote the idea of care and elevate that to the level of artistic concept,” Bedford said. “It is metaphoric and literal in her work. Metaphoric to the extent that it is supposed to extrapolate the care that she puts into them.”

The interdependence of art, nature and human will continue outside the center, where Hayes has designed and installed a 3,500-square-foot garden. “The Roof Garden is only the second permanent installation in the Wexner’s 22-year history. Find it adjacent to the center’s front door.

“Elliott Hundley: The Bacchae

The 12 mostly new works in this exhibition from L.A. multimedia artist Elliott Hundley all relate to the Greek tragedy “The Bacchae” by Euripides.

Check out his sweeping six-panel “The Lighting’s Bride,” a collage made of paint and found items that addresses the moment in the play when Pentheus’ mother realizes that she has murdered her son while under a Bacchic trance.

“The most important thing to me is the relationship between overall composition and micro-detail,” Bedford said. “Stand way back from the surfaces and you can see a whole relationship materialize that has nothing to do with what you look at close up. As you approach the work, a level of detail slowly unfolds … it rewards close looking and will engage you for a very long time.”

Also of note is the hanging sculpture “Alas!,” built for the Wexner’s back space out of metal, plastic, pins, glass, wire and string.

“It will be one of the cornerstones of the entire show,” Bedford said.

Check out the show:

Wexner Center for the Arts

Sept. 16-Dec. 30

1871 N. High St., Campus

Catch the opening:

Fall 2011 Exhibitions Preview and Opening Celebration

6-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 (starting at 7:30 p.m. for the general public)

Save the date:

Drink It In presented by GenWex

7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30

Tour the landscapes of Alexis Rockman and Paula Hayes while sipping on sustainable, biodynamic and organic wines from House Wine. Tickets are $18 for the general public.