Three diverse exhibits

This past Friday, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG) presented three new exhibitions: Building Berlin, Singularly Significant and Being Magnified: Heroes and Villains. With a variety of paintings, contemporary sculptures, prints and multimedia pieces, these exhibits remind viewers that art can be more than just pictures on a wall.

Building Berlin

The most elaborate exhibit of the three is spread throughout several rooms of the gallery. Entitled Building Berlin, it is composed of several pieces that represent Berlin in the past and the present.
An enormous variety of art forms are scattered throughout this exhibition.

On one wall are German letters formed by fluorescent lights, saying, “Ich Verstehe Nur Bahnhof.”

Placed on a background made from German train schedules, this phrase appropriately means, “The only thing I understand is train station.”

A description to the left of the display enlightens viewers that “weary WWI German soldiers desperately wanting to return home used the phrase ‘the only thing I understand is train station’ when receiving any command not related to their return home. The phrase is still used today to express a lack of understanding.”

Other works reviewing Berlin include 3D mini-sculptures of the German women’s national soccer team of 2005, giant portraits, painted words and a projection screen featuring various videos of Berlin today.

With a variety of works from different artists, a second focus of this exhibition is connecting Berlin, Germany, to the other Berlin; what is now Kitchener, Ontario.

Artist Daniel Seiple does this with his contemporary sculpture, Tear Down this Fence, 2009. Structured on the floor, Sieple’s piece is the torn down and misshapen remains of a fence from the border of Kitchener-Waterloo.

“I wanted to convince a family to tear down their fence,” explained Seiple.

“I sent letters to about 350 to 400 residents on the KW border … I don’t mean to sound cliché or anything but the people that I’ve talked to here have been amazing.… I told them in commemoration of the Berlin Wall, if you want to tear down your fence and put it on display in the same way the Berlin wall has been sent around the world.”

Although the reasons for the KW fence coming down are nothing similar to the original wall of Berlin, Seiple’s piece remains an interesting idea towards breaking down borders.

Building Berlin will be on display until Jan. 23, 2010.

Singularly Significant

Filled with pieces that are typically disregarded when considering the classical vision of art, Singularly Significant displays frames across the room where various texts and prints are spotlighted.

This exhibit is part of a series that features artists’ projects marking significant developments in the field of contemporary art.

The pieces selected outline the room with announcements of reality and imagination.
In bold, multi-sized font are fairground posters broadcasting spectacular but improbable beings, such as the “temperamental barometric contortionist.”

Four love letters are also displayed; they use no flashy print, but with one for each season, the wonderful idea of year-round love is presented.

Curated by Janice Kerbel, the showing is unique and interesting.

Even though we are bombarded with hundreds of textual images every day, this exhibit captivates viewers enough to stop, read and try to understand the text that surrounds them.

Singularly Significant will be open for viewing until Jan. 23, 2010.

Heroes and Villains

What does being a hero mean to you? The exhibition that opened in the KWAG this past Friday asks this question. Entitled Being Magnified: Heroes and Villains, the exhibit opens up the viewer’s eyes to different kinds of heroes and villains.

Consisting of several paintings, this exhibit features art such as John Kennedy’s Death Mask, a black and white painting of a face surrounded by darkness.

A subtler point than the Singularly Significant series, the gallery narrows heroism down to “an innate internally driven curiosity to explore or improve their world.” Perhaps the most striking piece of this exhibition is not actually a painting.

Upon walking into this room are giant white letters on a green backdrop that spell HE then RO underneath.

A brief description beside these letters invites visitors to take a journey through the exhibit, but also fills in the magnified “HERO”, describing what it means to them. The diverse but heartfelt replies were my personal favourite part of the exhibition.

Being Magnified: Heroes and Villains will be available for viewing until Aug. 29, 2010.