June 17, 2004
VCU Sculpture graduate students open art exhibit at cutting-edge European art center
Exhibit is VCU's first international one at a commercial art gallery
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A group of Virginia Commonwealth University students recently traveled abroad to hold an international exhibition at a commercial gallery - a first for the VCU School of the Arts.
The 12 graduate students in VCU's Department of Sculpture recently opened the exhibit "Madison's Cave" at the Keith Talent Gallery, a cutting edge gallery space and major European art center located in London's East end.
"It's so revealing to take your work out of your comfort zone and surround it by people of another culture," said VCU sculpture graduate student Alessandra Torres. "Not only have we been given the opportunity to hold an international exhibit in a major European Art Center, but we are developing our careers as artists while at the same time establishing an international dialogue with the art world and our peers overseas."
The international exhibit began as an idea that evolved out of a conversation between Newton and the students at the beginning of the spring 2004 semester. Though previous sculpture graduate students normally traveled to New York to put on exhibitions, the group thought of possibly visiting a different art scene and began thinking of potential locations.
It occurred to the group that the program had a visiting faculty member from London named Mark Harris. Newton asked Harris about potential galleries in England where the group could put on an exhibit, and Harris suggested the Keith Talent Gallery in London. Owned by Simon Pittuck and Andrew Clarkin, the gallery is located in an area that is mixed with both residential and industrial buildings. The up and coming active gallery space draws younger or "avant garde" artists.
The students, who were eager to explore the London art scene, pieced together a CD ROM and web site of various works, which Pittuck and Clarkin reviewed. The gallery owners expressed an interest in the work and invited the group to hold an exhibit at their gallery. Newton and the students then sent a proposal to Dr. Richard Toscan, dean of VCU's School of the Arts, for financial assistance that would make the trip possible.
As arrangements were being finalized within the Department of Sculpture, Pittuck and Clarkin came up with the name "Madison's Cave" for the upcoming exhibit. Newton says the exhibit's name comes from Pittuck and Clarkin's fascination with the mysteries of the historic Madison's Cave, a limestone cave located on the north side of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. The curators thought the name was appropriate because the various works would symbolize a collection of different mysteries from central Virginia.
The 12 artists who traveled to London are Diana Al-Hadid, Allison Andrews, Sarah Bednarek, Gabriel Bennett, Brian Caverly, Jacq Crowley, Tim Devoe, Fernando Mastrangelo, Alessandra Torres, Claire Watkins, Ruby Westcoat and Kai Vierstra. Immediately upon their arrival, the group began preparations for the exhibit's opening. Many even remained at the gallery overnight on several occasions to make the most of the short time they had in the days before the opening. The students said they learned the importance of being prepared and flexible, and others valued the opportunity to bring their work into a new environment.
"One of the things that we encourage in our program is the development of an individual voice, but one supported by strong articulation," said Carlton Newton, assistant chairman of VCU's Department of Sculpture. "When people of a similar culture, but miles away from home are easily able to read the works and become engaged by them, it says that the work is serious and pertinent to today's art scene."
Newton said the experience also created a really intense bond of camaraderie among the students. "These students are highly competitive of one another, but also very supportive of each other's works. "I believe each artist will develop an increased sense of confidence from this experience, or perhaps sharpen what their potential goals may be," Newton said.
The exhibit will be held through July 11 at the Keith Talent Gallery in London.
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