New gallery exhibition pushes boundaries and begs the question: What is Art?

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Found objects spill out of the dumpster instalation, including a unbrella from Manilla. (Milan Subedi/The Skyine View)

“I’m confused,” “It’s scary,” and “How fascinating” were remarks heard from persons when first wit­nessing the new gallery exhibition at Skyline during its reception last Thursday evening.

The title of this exhibit, Free- Range Aesthetics: Pussyfooting Through the Detritus Mindfield of Reality, as well as its content is be­fuddling. It helps though when you see the postcard flier of all six artists with their faces photoshopped over cats, and then see the gallery and understand that befuddlement may be what they were going for.

“My thing is, why not be ambigu­ous? Why do I as an artist have to say something that I think is going to become meaningful?” explained art­ist Juan Carlos Quintana. “It can be said in the artwork and if someone sees it that’s fine and if they don’t see it that’s okay as well.”

A kind of ‘what the heck just hap­pened?’ moment occurs when one enters Skyline’s gallery, and sees the normally white walls covered in colorful, drippy graffiti. At this point, one either runs out the door, or curiously walks closer to the giant tipped over dumpster in the center of room, selling for $60,000 dollars.

It takes a minute to realize what one is looking at. Spilling out of the dumpster is a jumbled mass of seem­ingly random objects, such as paint­ings on canvass, cloth, and paper, which the artists say are unfinished and unsold artwork.

The objects are “found objects,” meaning they were found already in existence, not bought specifically for the exhibit. Some that stood out were a urinal, plastic rubber duckies, an art easel, a toy doll’s head stuck to the bottom end of a crutch, and a green caterpillar piñata.

“It is visual language, not ev­eryday language and not speech. It functions in that symbolic way,” said contributing artist Arvin Flores, when talking about the dumpster. “One man’s trash is another man’s fortune and hey! It’s open for inter­pretation.”

This exhibit is special because it’s spontaneous and fleeting: the art­ists were given the creative freedom to work directly on the gallery walls, but didn’t know what the space looked like until they got here two weeks ago. Plus, the walls will be painted over at the end of the show, and the dumpster installation can never be arranged exactly the same after its removal.

“Doing this collaborative work, and doing these sculptural works, takes me out of my element and it’s refreshing,” said artist Carlo Ricafort.

While only three of the six artists in the group could be physically present at Skyline, AFKAF or Artists Formerly Known As Friends as they call themselves, were still able to collaborate long distance. Thanks to modern day tools, Flores, Quintana, and Ricafort used Skype, email, and photographs to get feedback, share ideas, and send/receive new designs to Gerry Tan, David Griggs and Manuel Ocam­po. Griggs and Ocampo are working on another exhibition in Berlin, and Gerry Tan is in Austria. Ocampo has gained international fame and has a documentary film about him.

AFKAF also got the student body involved by recruiting art students to help with some of the initial wall paintings. For instance, Olivia Asis, a student taking a gallery practicum class, was able to obtain gallery hours for helping paint the outline of the artists designs projected onto the gallery wall. Students Christine Ann Aquino and Lone Wang, who gave up their weekends to help, were also appreciated by the artists.

Other student body involvement included traditional Kulintang music and dance performance on the reception night, lead by Skyline teacher Danny Kalandyan.

The exhibit is playful with phras­es such as “I’ll go medieval on your ass” and “Art all dressed up with nowhere to go,” and has humorous paintings such as a green hairy arm growing out of a pepperoni pizza and urinal caricatures.

When a viewer jokingly asked Flores if he could use the toilet in their exhibit, Flores smiled and pointed across the room at the paint­ed sign written in Tagalog saying “Bawal ang umihi dito!” translating roughly to ‘Do not pee here!’ The sign, Flores explained, was seen in the streets of Manila, where people have to make their own ‘do not pee signs’ to combat the public urinating problem.

However, if one cannot catch the inside jokes and political references, at least one can marvel at its visual density and appreciate its creative execution.

The exhibit will be shown in the Skyline Gallery until December 4, in Building 1 next to Parking Lot E.