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“Social Injustice” at Tacoma Community College hits many issues with many artists

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Jan. 20, 2010 at 6:22 am with 2 Comments »
January 21, 2010 9:56 am
Ann Johnston-Schuster, "Shock and Awe." Image courtesy TCC gallery.

There’s “Social Injustice” at Tacoma Community College gallery – from the point of view of artists, that is. A new group show features 24 local artists in a big group show addressing social justice issues, and as you’d expect from such a big show, the effects are as diverse as the issues opened up, from racism to violence to poverty to war.

In the entry are a mixed bag of paintings. Karen Benveniste uses stark color fields and shadows in her neo-Cubist oils of cityscapes, contrasting corporate wealth with black poverty. They’re not subtle, but they’re striking, and portray tough survivors instead of victims. Alain Clerc is less successful with a New Age-y wash of blues, with a bright white supernatural figure in the middle. The fact that he’s moping over his own situation doesn’t help the triteness.

Alice di Certo, "Untitled" from "Skin and Flesh" series. Image courtesy TCC gallery.

Further inside, the gallery showcases some of the best of local work (though not always new.) The untitled photograph from Alice di Certo’s “Skin and Flesh” series is beautiful to see again, the black and white body parts melding and anonymously, sensually unidentifiable. If only there were more…although her “Voices” video, cropping interviews about racial discrimination to just a mouth, makes its meta-racial point well.

Ann Johnston-Schuster is one of the few print artists in the show: Her elaborate woodcuts create a dull-eyed girl or screaming boy out of a myriad of randomly crossed cuts, giving the subjects an almost cosmic scale. Alice Dubiel, meanwhile, takes on the slave trade with ironically gorgeous, shimmering colors, as a pinky-red river of skulls flows through a lush, pointilist forest of emerald green.

Not all the works are technically brilliant. There are quite a few self-indulgent mixed-media collages, some acrylic screams by Beverly Naidus that look unfinished, some shots of dead soldier’s belongings by Connie Hardy that are both unoriginal and weirdly cropped.

Two of the best items in show, in fact, rely on restraint to make a devastating point about issues of justice. John  McCuistion’s ceramic figures, last seen at the UPS retrospective, speak mutely and blindly to war, armless as they are and riddled with holes. Melinda Cox, meanwhile, conceals the shuddering inhumanity of hog farms – where pigs live their lives confined in crowds just inches away from grassy freedom – beneath a serene pastoral pastel with a tufty, windswept sky.

The gallery is holding an “Empty Bowls” charity drive during the show: Artist-made and donated ceramic bowls will be on sale for $10 each, with all proceeds going to the Emergency Food Network. There’s also a forum on social justice from 4-5:40 p.m. Feb. 2 led by five of the artists.

“Social Injustice” runs at The Gallery at Tacoma Community College through March 15. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon-Fri. Free. 6501 S. 19th St, use entrance at South 12th and Mildred Streets, Tacoma. 253-460-4306, www.tacomacc.edu

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. francesco says:

    It might not have been one of my best painting i ever painted…but the exclusive eye of Ponnekanti missed the point of the show ,that is the effort the artists make to show and expose the major disparities in the world we live in, quality in art varies, but the feeling of care is in all the pieces of this show…because of the nature of it ,critics should leave theirs guns at the door , that would be something worth writing about….
    Alain Clerc

  2. Rosemary Ponnekanti says:

    Thanks for the comment, Alain. Should critics (or anyone) check their critical faculties at the door if the event is supporting a social cause? Well, this is partly why I don’t cover fundraisers. But if a newspaper reports on a charity, should it politely ignore any dubious goings-on? If a musician plays a song about domestic violence, should we ignore it if it’s totally out of tune? I don’t think so. This exhibition was mounted as art, not as a fundraiser, and so I’m judging it as such. I think readers also should keep their critical faculties turned on, even when the cause is good. Social causes need good expression, not unthinking viewers.

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