Review of Slash: Paper Under the Knife

This past week I visited Slash: Paper Under the Knife– an exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design featuring art made out of paper. The exhibit celebrates the recent boom in the use of paper in creating art and is the third exhibition in the museum’s  Materials and Process series, which “examines the renaissance of traditional handcraft materials and techniques in contemporary art and design,” as the Museum website puts it. Many of the works have been done on site and specifically for the exhibit.

Immediately when you walk into the first floor of the exhibit you see a large paper tank. Upon moving closer you see stag beetles covering the outer layer of the vehicle, and when you really look closer it becomes apparent that the paper the tank is made out of is not blank paper, but rather pages out of the Jewish prayer book, the siddur. The tank (a german tank) represents German aggression during World War II and the stag beetle, which, in Middle Eastern culture, typically represents a resilient native population. The artist is Pietro Ruffo and the piece is called “Youth of the Hills” (2008).

This foreshadowed the manner in which many of the works in Slash are viewed. Many have appealing and intriguing structures, but upon looking closer at the paper, a deeper message can be found.

Such is the case with the creations of Sangeeta Sandrasegar. Her reclining and rocking chairs made out of paper are cut out in the middle to depict war scenes with guns and barbed wire. The contrast of the comfort of a rocking chair and the backrest filled with violence is not a coincidence.

However, just because it has a meaning embedded into a structure made out of paper does not make it good art. Rob Ryan’s “Can We Shall We” is two lover’s atop a hill with steps leading up to it embedded with quotations of longing such as “can we” and “shall we.” It looked like house art or art that could be found in store for $20 dollars instead of an exhibit in NYC.

Not all of the pieces have a hidden message, some are very creative designs and other’s utilize the effects of bright colors  such as Oliver Herring’s “Alex”- a lifesize sculpture of a human covered in different color patches of paper, some of which are colored photos of that part, such as a photo of a toe on the toe of the sculpture.  I particularly was impressed the way many artists utilized the layering possiblities offered by paper as opposed to paint alone. This can clearly be seen in “Paperworks” by Andreas Kocks- a giant black inkblot looking form on an upper wall of the exhibit. Certain parts of it protrude outward as a result of layering paper, and this creates a sort of 3-D effect.

I think the exhibit was definitely worth my time. It was well put together and the layout was pleasing. I was very impressed and captivated simply by what artists could do creatively with paper. Besides for its novelty, some of the works I would consider fine pieces of art, but not many. It may not be worth a special trip, but if you are in the area or just looking for something intriguing, the Slash exhibit is definitely worth giving a try.

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