The Eyes Have It: New exhibition reopens Lehman College Art Gallery

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The Eyes Have It: New exhibition reopens Lehman College Art Gallery
Rodolfo Abularach, Artemisia, 1978.

BRONX, NY.- Lehman College Art Gallery opens its Edith Altschul Lehman and Robert Lehman wings from August 31 through November 13 to the work of artists from Pakistan and Guatemala, from Greece, Italy, and Spain, the Bahamas, Canada, and London, and across the United States, from Maryland to California. Their works, created in the last decade, truly bring “the eyes of the world” to the Gallery and exemplify the need to see and be seen ― the central pillar of the visual arts.

In the Gallery’s Rotunda, Sima I. Schloss’ dazzling 30-foot, site-specific installation The Eyes Have It, allows for a wide breath of interconnectivity among all the exhibition’s works.

Artists include: Humaira Abid, Rodolfo Abularach, Derrick Adams, Carlos Aires, Janine Antoni, Firelei Báez, Gina Beavers, Angelica Bergamini, Huma Bhabha, Zach Blas, Justin Bower, Francesco Clemente, Julie Cockburn, Peter Combe, Esperanza Cortes, Diana Corvelle, Vanezza Cruz, Timothy Cummings, DAS INSTITUT (Kerstin Brätsch and Adele Röder), Dennis Delgado, Dale Dunning, Lauren Fensterstock, Stephen Frailey, Carla Gannis, Laurent Grasso, Gregory Halili, Peter Hamlin, Valerie Hammond, HoruX, James Jean, Laura Karetzky, Katherine Knauer, Fay Ku, Caroline Larsen, Ted Lawson, Lysiane Luong, Civil Milieu, Marilyn Minter, Felekşan Onar, Tony Oursler, Alex Prager, Joseph Raffael, Jamel Robinson, Dan Schaub, Sima I. Schloss, Laurie Simmons, Chris Smith, and William Villalongo.

The graceful line of the eye and its colors, and its leading place in our senses has intrigued the painter and sculptor from antiquity to today’s art movements. For eons the eye performed well for humans and animals, receiving and signaling perceptions and, now, in its new host ― a machine’s screen. Each work in this exhibition explores the eye in a human, predatory, or technological context. Interlocking themes encompass ageless associations from classical mythology to today’s threat of cyber-surveillance. The artists also contrast the strength and weakness of the human eye with the power of the animal eye – the watchful, predatory owl and the peacock with a thousand “eyes” set within the sweeping train of its tail. The eye remains a symbol of power, protection and rebirth, a symbol that dates back to the most ancient civilizations. A talisman against evil, a harbinger of observation, and a comforting sign of God’s watchfulness, artists have always incorporated the eye into portrayals of human endeavor. Today, the eye continues to enthrall artists: its powerful associations and captivating gaze are coupled with its roles as the physical embodiment of sight and as visual metaphor for our need to see and be seen.

The exhibition reflects differing experiences of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity observed by the artists — as varied as the contested role of female drivers in Pakistan; exploration into the electronic eye of surveillance and how it may discriminate against people of color; and, technological attempts to single out members of the LGBTQIA community.

“Eye-appeal” has long been a catchphrase for what we find attractive, and many images of the eye in this exhibition are drenched with beauty. Beyond its surface attraction though, the eye represents “perception” or the ability to understand, to examine, inspect, or interrogate. We use our eyes to gather information from which we draw our opinions. The current moral and political climate demands that artists look at how we, as individuals, function in a large and complex society.

Among the many artistic highlights, Gregory Halili, in Sorrow II (2014) creates a literal depiction of the eye, while using a medium that combines historic religious symbolism with contemporary creative techniques: he chose mother of pearl, with a whiteness that resembles the sclera or outer layer of the eyeball, to create the eyes of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Sorrows. The tears shed by the Virgin are formed by the naturally occurring formation of pearls on the shell. The artist HoruX, in The All Seeing Mother (2021) turns to digital photography to reinterpret commonly seen religious images into surrealist works suffused with symbolism.

In video works, Carlos Aires comments on the power of the “eye-to-eye” connection of police power and the power of the State in the slightly ominous, but charmingly sensual Sweet Dreams Are Made of This (2016), while Zach Blas more overtly posits the dangers of digital recognition in his Facial Weaponization Communiqué: Fag Face (2012). In her highly topical 2021 Tempting Eyes series, Humaira Abid contemplates the politics and power of a woman’s eyes within an otherwise covered face, at a time when women’s rights to such essential activities such as driving are increasingly under threat by a resurgence of the Taliban. In Shade (2014), Derrick Adams creates a figure of striking contrast, as he similarly explores the politics of the covered face. In his collage only the eye is visible, combining jarring aspects of determined militancy with a feminine floral.

Laura Karetsky humorously explores the Covid-19 crisis in We’re Going to Have to Learn to Read the Eyes A Lot Better (2020), by showing the eye seen through a phone or monitor lens. Her lens addresses the constant need to see and be seen through digital conversation. In a black mirror, Lauren Fensterstock’s Scrying #3 (2017) melds the ancient and modern, both reminiscent of today’s eye-in-the -sky cameras and early scrying glass, its translucent surfaces an eye to the past, present, and future. Her work forces us to face our own reflections, our own beliefs, our own souls.

Advance Reservations thru Eventbrite

Please note that proof of vaccination is required to visit Lehman College Art. Masks must be work on Lehman College Campus at all times.

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