Portraits of humans with canines for heads, mismatching labels towards iconic figures, and surreal representations of the human body; the incongruous aspects emphasized by the artworks in this exhibition all remain true to the theme of juxtaposition, the positioning of two strikingly different images or ideas together to create a contrasting effect. And it is the sharp distinction that occurs within each painting, each sketch, and each model that leaves such a strong impression.
The exhibition can be distinguished into three main groups. The first section is composed of large portraits of easily recognized figures in society. As many recent visitors to the gallery can attest to, the first impression that is received is, literally, the giant figure of Charlie Chaplin on a blank white wall. The other subjects include Emma Watson, Michael Jackson, and Kim Jong-un (diverse). All four of the drawings are large scaled, and divided into four different sections, each of the parts with slightly mismatching drawing styles, as different students worked together to create one portrait of their celebrity. The subtitles, marked under the drawings, attract even more attention, as they so sharply contradict the normally conceived ideas regarding the figures. Jane Jeong, a senior student, stated her groups’ intentions in drawing Michael Jackson with the word “Natural” as the main text: “When we think of Michael Jackson, the first we think of is his scandal with plastic surgery. So at first, we thought when we use the word natural to describe him, it would be completely opposite from the image people usually have of Michael Jackson. But when we thought about it from another point of view, he is a naturally talented musician, so the word seemed to work in that context as well. The word ‘natural’ was able to have a double meaning, which we thought was a good idea.”
There is also a series of sketched self-portraits done mostly by the senior students; some of them center on pure visual juxtaposition while others are focused more on conflicting concepts. The beauty of juxtaposition is that artists are free to merge together visuals or concepts, combinations that would normally upset and disturb others once put together under normal circumstances. Take for instance, the self-portrait by Jun Han; it portrays a contrast between a smile amidst a less than happy situation, using the reflection from a mirror to show that the smiling façade is forced, as he is held at gunpoint. His portrayal of a smile cuts deep to the core on the masquerade of humanity, hinting that it may be impossible to truly understand the internal forces of another human being.
Different from the hand-drawn artworks, the next section consists of three-dimensional structures made from plaster mixtures and paintings. These artworks are mainly aesthetic juxtaposition as the usually fragile and thin materials have been replaced with a hardened matter, as exemplified in “Untitled (Paper Cranes)” by Cindy Hong. These compositions show a different type of juxtaposition from the portraits, as they were the only model structures in the exhibition. Although there were only two artworks on display from these types of materials, they didn’t seem out of place.
The paintings and drawings by a senior student, Eunice Mun, also focuses mainly on visual juxtaposition: “All my paintings have no meaning; I just try to make a meaning out of it by putting in nonsense.” Instead she focused mainly on the aesthetic values in her compositions: “The man is made out of acrylic plus the other paint, more a typical paint, while the woman is made out of pen work out of lines creating a more abstract look. It is definitely a more modern than an antique style. I tried to make the lines distorted while the right portion that tried to imitate Grant Wood’s original painting, was given a more realistic look.”
The interesting aspect of juxtaposition is that sometimes, ironically, its only role isn’t to portray the difference but to imply to the viewers a common ground that is usually overlooked. The popular actress Emma Watson, with the title “Introvert,” though completely contradictory at first, implies that there is a side to Watson one may never know, and that her true self, without the act put on within society, she may as well be a hermit. Humans portrayed with animal characteristics, insinuates that there is a connection between the figure and the creature. With most of the artworks in this exhibition, the viewers would ask questions regarding the subjects of comparison and the means in which they are compared. However, a more deeper and profound question would be to ponder over the underlying connection between the two objects of comparison.
- Suzie Park