Bay College Announces the Reception for the Exhibition, Ideas and Things, Artwork by Russell Prather


Bay College announces the reception for the exhibition, Ideas and Things, artwork by Russell Prather. Please join us on Thursday, September 8th, at 2 p.m. for the reception and Artist Talk in the Besse Gallery.

Russell Prather has shown painting and sculpture at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Museum of Northwest Art, Yorck Studios in Berlin, the Chicago Art Department Gallery, the Duluth Art Institute, Stephen F. Austin State University, Truman State University, and other venues.  Prather’s visual art is deeply, if idiosyncratically, influenced by the study of literature, especially the work of turn-of-the-18th century artist/poet William Blake.  Prather currently teaches eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century literary and visual culture at Northern Michigan University, and directs the English Department's Master of Arts Program.  He has published both art and criticism, including William Blake and the Problem of Progression in Studies in Romanticism.
Artist Statement:
Coming Together and Coming Apart.   I make visually volatile renderings of simple forms and ordinary objects.  My pieces are made from tinted acrylic medium—in patterns of dots, lines and other marks—painted onto transparent sheets of polyester film, aligned on metal rods and suspended with monofilament.  Viewers see a row of 20 or more two-dimensional surfaces, like a sequence of cross sections, that collectively conjure a three-dimensional illusion.  Hovering in space, they are viewable from 360 degrees; with no fixed or favored point of view, the alignment of the layers is constantly in flux.  As viewers shift their perspective and proximity, these objects gradually and radically transform: viewed askew they appear solid and extended, from the front they flatten out like paintings or screens, from the side they can seem to fold into space and disappear.

Ideas and Things.   Though schematic or abstracted renderings such as these might seem to privilege the idea of the thing represented, the representation itself is inevitably physical, with its own peculiar set of properties.  These pieces shimmer as you approach because some light passes through them; they quiver because most air does not.  Their elusive physicality—impelling viewers to repeatedly reconfigure and reassess what they are perceiving—works to confound the distinction between an idea and a thing.  Seeming at once abstract and concrete, generic and specific, coming together and coming apart, these pieces strive to disrupt—outstrip, even—our habitual means of making sense of the things we see.

Image and Text.   It is perhaps a distinguishing feature of my visual arts practice that it is profoundly, if not always obviously, influenced by my study and teaching of literature.  My work seems always, in part, to be pondering the relationship between the so-called “sister arts,” and visual and literary forms of representation.  You can see this even in the structure of the pieces.  The polyester sheets I make my marks on are paper-thin, roughly the same proportions as a standard sheet of paper, and lined up one after the other.  Sequential and temporal—like words in a sentence or pages in a book—they must be “read” to be recognized.  In this way my interdisciplinary impulses work to fuse, and confuse, the spatiality of painting and the temporality of language. 
The exhibition of his work can be viewed from August 29-October 15 and reception will be held on Thursday September 8th, at 2 pm in the Besse Gallery.
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