‘Unfunny’ or not, you decide
New exhibit allows viewer to interpret meaning
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 17:04
Much like here last exhibit, Lori Larusso hopes people walk away thinking from her latest show, “Unfunny.”
She had to consider the physical limitations of the Café Muse space in the Plains Art Museum for her last exhibit. This time around, the Memorial Union Gallery offered a typical setting to work in with plenty of white space. Larusso said it was very exciting to have “pretty much complete control” over the gallery here, as opposed to having to cram as much work as possible into a commercial gallery. With “Unfunny,” there’s a generous amount of white space.
“It’s unusual to have some much space around the work, but I think for art work it’s not for the purpose of commodity only. It’s to display the work and to allow the work to have more room for you to consider what’s happening and what’s not happening,” Larusso explained.
Specifically with these works she started to isolate the images more than she has in the past. She used to do pieces that were contained within one two-dimensional panel. Here she’s picked out sections of a scenario and leaves the viewer to make associations between what’s there and what isn’t; images can be defined what’s present and what’s absent.
One of the pieces, called “Prize,” shows two dogs sitting on a bearskin rug looking up at an empty birdcage. She was considering what people take pride in when working on it as well as different classes of animals. Larusso ultimately leaves it to the viewer to decide what the prize is: Is it the bearskin rug? Is it the two dogs? Is it whatever ever was in the birdcage? Furthermore, what was in the cage?
She also likes to use art to create imagery that isn’t possible in reality. “Shift,” a piece depicting two staircases from different perspectives could be interpreted as just one staircase, simply because of their distance relative to one another.
“If someone looks at my work and it makes them ask questions I think that’s a good thing, rather than just say, ‘Oh, I like the color.’ I want them to like the color too, but I’m more interested in the intellectual consideration,” Larusso said.
With her last exhibit, “Pizza is a Vegetable,” Larusso was more interested in asking questions rather than sending a specific message. She still doesn’t have a specific message with “Unfunny,” and admits she was trying to name the exhibit as quickly as the work was coming together. However, she does claim there’s an element of humor present in the pieces whether the viewer realizes it or not; her students are never quite sure when she’s joking either.
She has three weeks left as the James Rosenquist Artist in Residence, a post she’s had here since January. Her huge focus in class has been to get her students to think about the choices they make with their art. She’s also tried to challenge their notions of what art is, since she’s not sure how much exposure they’ve had to other thoughts on art. She encourages them to use a variety of materials and to entertain numerous ideas based on what the work is about, not with the intention of just making another thing. She argues we have plenty of “stuff” already.
“I hope that I’ve given them a new way to think about things. That’s what academia -- especially art school -- is all about, expanding your mindset and considering your surroundings on a constant basis,” Larusso claimed. “I think that, for me anyway, art is never really separate. It’s not like I go to my studio and make art, and then leave and my mind is completely elsewhere. I’m thinking about things as they relate to the work I do.” She hopes she’s made an impact on them, and that the art making process has become a part of their everyday life.
Larusso’s next show opens at ecce May 10, where she’ll be showing off work she has already finished. She notes she’s happy finally have some time off now until then.