I hesitate to tell you that this is a student show. It isn’t. OK, it is. But, it’s not.
Dialog: Material, on through June 22 at Further Polycontemporary Gallery at the Tula Art Center, features works by Georgia State University MFA and BFA sculpture students. But they are not rudimentary, fledgling attempts at being clever or intentionally relevant. Every work in the show evinces technical skill, sophistication in the transformation of materials and mature ideas, including healthy doses of tongue-in-cheek and social relevance.
Standing guard near the gallery entrance, Morgan Lugo’s Coexistence 2013 is a striking trio of human-scale sculptures in which terrarium “heads” composed of skulls and plant matter rest atop wood and concrete pedestals. They evoke Easter Island Moai protectors, repositories of sacred spirits.
Lugo is fascinated with the fluctuating relationship between urban communities and nature. These works are fueled by notions of growth and decay, life and death, taking over and taking back.
Binaries continue in the use of materials: wood, concrete, glass, bones and plant matter. Even the glass bells that cover the heads embody this duality: the heads push against the terrarium glass, seemingly attempting to escape their confinement, while the viewer is prevented from getting in. Very current in concept, the pieces nonetheless look as though they might be found in some forgotten storeroom in a natural history museum.
Huelani Fogleman’s Metal Balls 2014 beckon through an opening in the rear wall of the gallery. At first glance the orbs seem airy and cosmic, a bit like armillary spheres that represent lines of celestial longitude and latitude. They hang and twirl, casting intricate shadows on the wall that warp and bend and undulate.
Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that the balls have been constructed of band saws. This seems a feat in itself, and I couldn’t help wincing as I contemplated the process of forcing the sharp, saw toothed flat rods into spherical submission. The urge to touch and the fear of doing so exist in delicious tension, just as the spider web of fine threads holding the spheres aloft offer a delicate and provocative contrast.
Dena Light, a BFA student, the show’s curator and a former environmental scientist, perfectly melds the inorganic with organic in Shimmer 2014. Plastic soda bottles melted together form a lovely jellyfish that seems to float in front of a blue shadow cast by a projector. The piece references the dire plight of sea life struggling to survive in an ocean filled with trash.
The artists will be bringing in new work during the exhibition, so what you might see today may be something different tomorrow.
11 a.m.–5 p.m., Mondays–Fridays. 75 Bennett St. #M2. Reception: June 12, 6–9 p.m.