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Students debut 'Fissure Price' exhibition

Photo by Marcel Merwin | The Rice Thresher

‘I’ll Tell You What the Coloreds Want. It’s Three Things. (Get Big or Get Out),’ by student artist Amiri Boykin, joins pieces by fellow students Yutian He and Dorin Azerad in their exhibition, ‘Fissure Price,’ in the Rice Media Center. The students were the 2015 recipients of the Mavis C. Pitman Exhibition Fellowship.

By Kaylen Strench, Arts and Entertainment Editor     4/8/15 5:17am

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This spring, a fresh collection of pieces are taking over the Rice Media Center. “Fissure Price,” a diverse yet surprisingly unified exhibition, is the result of collaboration among this year’s Mavis C. Pitman Exhibition Fellowship winners: Martel College senior Yutian He, McMurtry College junior Dorin Azerad and Jones College senior Amiri Boykin. The visual and dramatic arts majors were each awarded cash prizes to support the creation of original works and their subsequent display in the Media Center. Though all three artists created distinct pieces, they were required to work together to curate a joint exhibition with a single name and theme.

He’s installation, “Reconstructed Destruction,” built from intricately folded and burnt paper, explores the tension between destruction and restoration. She said she was inspired by a summer research project she completed last year on disaster relief and reconstruction in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. 

“Both of these places have been affected by severe natural disasters,” He said. “Sri Lanka by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and Indonesia, because it’s very seismically active, by volcanoes and earthquakes. I was very moved by concept of the magnitudes and extremities of time and space.”

In order to construct her work, He burned bits of paper with a propane tank, put out the flame quickly and then intricately folded the slips into various patterns.

“Natural features can take a long time to form but natural disasters can destroy in an instant,” He said. “I tried to process these thoughts by using different speeds of creation, fast and slow — fast being the burning of paper and slow being the meticulous and painstaking folding and creasing of the paper.”

Azerad’s piece, “SHATTERED,” features striking photographs of broken glass. She said the work analyzes the concept that pieces can be exquisite apart from a greater whole. 

“My idea was that broken pieces aren’t necessarily part of a greater whole,” Azerad said. “Parts have their own life when broken apart.”

In order to construct her work, Azerad smashed glass bottles, sorted through the pieces and then arranged them on a light table and photographed them. She explained the process was tedious and required close attention to detail.

“There was a lot of challenge in perfecting the technique,” Azerad said. “When you’re working with such small pieces of glass and you’re trying to make sure the images are high quality when blown up, you have to go back and re-photograph a lot, figuring out which lenses and lightings work best.”

Finally, Boykin used everything from magnets to bottle caps to human hair to create his complex work “sem titulo,” a mixed media piece including three sculptures, a video triptych, two short films and a QR code trio. He said his work explores a variety of themes relating to American cultural practices and values.

“Some of it is tongue-in-cheek, other parts much more obscure and directed,” Boykin said. “The material figures in the gallery ... are extensions of much larger, multilayered elements that house, but aren’t limited to, critiques [of] consumerism, health, excess, capitalism, wealth, globalization and the constructs of race, nations and identity in a transnational environment.”

Boykin said his decision to use so many elements was a deliberate choice based on the complexity of his subject matter.

“I wanted to highlight the dichotomies present in the issues I was addressing while also utilizing and referring to a familiar visual aesthetic,” Boykin said. “[I wanted to] make a personal statement against certain historical events by raising awareness about contemporary issues and highlighting their connections. I felt the best way to do this was through mixed media, since my message had mixed sources.”

Once the artists created their pieces, they had to work together to collectively design and curate the exhibition. He said one challenge was deciding how to balance the unity of the exhibition with the unique aspects of each of the works.

“We wanted to ensure that the exhibition clearly exhibited three distinct pieces of work,” He said. “But we decided the fact that all of the mediums we were doing were different would provide its own natural separation, so we also endeavored to have moments in the exhibition when we let our works interweave and interact with each other at visual points.”

Boykin said while he had some initial anxiety about how the pieces would fit together, he was pleased with the end result.

“I was worried my work would clash against [Azerad and He’s pieces],” Boykin said. “But during the installation a natural connection was created between our installations that felt organic and rewarding.”

The three artists met several times to discuss their vision for the exhibition. Besides the name and theme, they also decided that they wanted the opening night of the show and the exhibition itself to be welcoming.

“We really wanted our exhibition to be casual and welcoming,” He said. “We didn’t want something ‘high art’ and exclusive, like a black-tie wine-and-cheese event.”

Boykin said he hopes that students of all majors will take a few minutes to check out the exhibition.

“I hope everybody can make it across our ‘huge’ campus … and really engage in in the exhibition,” Boykin said. “The students are what make this university universally relevant.”

The Mavis C. Pitman Exhibition will be on display in the Rice Media Center until April 16 during normal hours, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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