Ruffin Gallery is an active part of the Studio Art program. Each year the gallery hosts four to six exhibits that serve as the University's most important showcase for contemporary art and are an integral part of the Studio Art experience. Students are involved with the production and installation of these exhibitions and gain valuable experience in the handling and hanging of important works of all types. Every spring the gallery is the site of the Fourth-Year Thesis and Aunspaugh Fellows Exhibitions. The openings are important occasions when the whole studio program gathers to celebrate the successful completion of the major.
January 17 - February 16
Sculpture, Prints and Drawings by Sheryl Oring
We demonstrate that art does not choose sides, but rather, "walks among the wounded," expressing empathy as it goes, to paraphrase the late John Berger.
The McIntire Department of Art is pleased to present "Writer's Block," an exhibition of the work of Sheryl Oring. This exhibition demonstrates our commitment to free speech, and to the role the arts and the humanities may play in this question, at a time when all of these things seem under attack. This work demonstrates that both criticality and expression are necessary in art.
To create her sculptural installation "Writer's Block", Sheryl Oring collected hundreds of typewriters in and around Berlin. Dating from the 1920s and 1930s these typewriters were then "caged" in sculptural boxes made of construction steel. By imprisoning the typewriters, Oring takes away the writer's tool. The result is a symbolic statement about censorship that easily leads viewers to examine their ideas about free expression, about elusive creativity, and about the nature of memory. "Writer's Block" premiered on Berlin's Bebelplatz, site of that city's Nazi book-burning, on May 10, 1999. This was the 66th anniversary of the 1933 event that destroyed the works of authors ranging from Nelly Sachs and Else Lasker-Schaler to Bertolt Brecht and Arnold Zweig. The sculptures were later shown at the Jewish Museum, Berlin; the Lions' courtyard of the Buda Castle, Budapest; the Boston Public Library; and Bryant Park at the New York Public Library. Website->
Once utilitarian office machines, used for everything from mundane office documents to works of great fiction, these machines now sit jumbled and rusting. Quite at odds with the age and obvious decrepitude of these sad volks-machines is their impact on us today. Suddenly Kristallnacht seems present, as if these machines were witnesses, for these machines seem to register our shock.
Today viewers of these typewriters must necessarily ask themselves questions that are not easily answered. Our often thoughtless collaboration and relationship with our world is challenged.
"No person is entirely free from being conditioned by images, prejudices, concepts of beauty and ugliness, clichés or social norms that he grew up with and which abut exclusionism and racism.1"
Even these rusting piles of old typing machines have the power to generate important questions. Sheryl Oring has found these questions vexing and even unanswerable. She has written that the more she learned about the historical events of which Kristallnacht was an instance, the less she understood. Knowledge seemed to trail off into paradox, conflict, racism and genocide. Oring has said her typographical prints and drawings, made subsequent to the sculptures, are her attempt to reconcile historical awareness with such a lack. The prints are Xeroxes - some variation of a Courier font - where the toner has been dissolved in acetone, thus transferring the image to paper. The font is now mirrored as well as incomprehensible. The set of lithographs published by Landfall Press progressively enlarge the font while simultaneously rendering it more an enigmatic graphic sign. The large questions remain.
Oring has been inclined to slide heavy rag paper under the cages, and to then place them outside for extended periods of time. We will do the same here. The rain and sleet furthers the slow decline and these machines drip, weep, and stain. Grease, oil, and iron oxide pigment the paper. The resulting "monotypes" stain our imagination and, like the typewriters themselves, provide evidence for the ongoing investigation into knowledge, time and memory. These old utilitarian office machines are still productive today, albeit in new ways.
Professor Dean Dass
1"The Grossly Misunderstood 'Banality of Evil' Theory" - Ada Ushpiz
McIntire Department of Art
Ruffin Hall 179 Culbreth Road,
+ Earth. Fire. Air. Water.
+ New Natural History
+ Julie Heffernan
+ Margaret McCann
+ Terrestrial Transmissions
+ Art Student Society's Juried Art Show
+ The End of Language
+ 4th & 5th Year Exhibitions