Follow Your Art
Follow Your Art
By F.Lennox Campello
Autumn is here and American University’s gorgeous museum at the Katzen Arts Center once again proves my thesis that AU has the DMV’s leading museum program, as evidenced by the continuous series of spectacularly diverse and interesting shows that continue to be presented under the leadership and guiding hand of Jack Rasmussen.
On the lower floor of the museum, this Fall we get the opportunity to see a brilliant show titled Reveal: The Art of Reimagining Scientific Discovery by Rebecca Kamen, and curated by the equally brilliant Sarah Tanguy, and presented by the Alper Initiative for Washington Art.
AU tells us that in Reveal, “Rebecca Kamen unlocks curiosity as a creative link between the arts, humanities, and sciences, exploring the symbiotic relationship behind scientific research and artwork’s development. From her extensive collaborations with scientists and philosophers at American University and beyond to her own life experience, the selection of painting, sculpture, and installation harnesses the emotive power of abstraction to humanize scientific breakthroughs in novel and unexpected directions. In the process, the exhibition becomes a laboratory of possibilities, shedding light on the many and disparate connective threads of her own artistic progress in the last two years.”
This is a fascinating, intelligent and beautiful exhibition, and a show which allows the artist to display and showcase not only ground-breaking concepts in the marriage of art and science, but also to flex enviable technical artistic skills.
Kamen’s multiple exhibitions in one start with a display of a very attractive series of paintings which the artist created while she had a serious optical issue which caused her to have double vision. During the period that she created these works, she painted while thinking that this double vision effect – eventually corrected via the use of prisms – was permanent. The resulting artwork is immensely captivating in the sense that it seems to trigger something in nearly every viewer that I chatted with at the museum – it is almost as if these images reside, in some personal form, within our personal ancestral memories. It is as if we’ve seen these images in our own thoughts and dreams. They do not only document an unusual way of seeing the world, but also stand alone as almost fantasy-like works of art.
Kamen titled most of these dazzling paintings “Reveries”, in honor of Nobel prizewinner Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Spanish neuroscientist, pathologist, and histologist who specialized in neuroanatomy and the central nervous system.
There are also multiple sculptures in the exhibition, which Kamen says were each inspired by different lines of research.
A work from this series which caught my attention was “Hemispheres”, an intriguing sculpture which Kamen notes was inspired by the cerebellum research work of American University’s Associate Professor Catherine Stoodley.
In the catalog Stoodley notes that the cerebellum “contains about half of the brains’ neurons packed into 10% of the brain’s volume.” The sculpture itself, which is composed of acrylic paint on folded Mylar, has thin, dark wires woven into a pattern around the two hemispheres that form a grid while also expanding aggressively out from the main body, almost as electrical connections shooting (or shouting) out ideas, thoughts, memories and sensations.
Kamen also contributes to the contemporary artwork canon inspired by the Covidian Age and its terrifying and beautiful virus. There are several colorful and almost sensual wall sculptures stimulated by the virus itself, but the crowning achievement (pun intended) of all contemporary Covidian art which I have seen so far, is without a single doubt the large magnificent wall sculpture titled “Silent Spread.”
The installation and lighting of this work, an elegant array of light coronas spreading over a large expanse of the back wall, adds a key component of how this important work is engraved into our memories when we first see it. The site specific lighting gives each individual virus piece a diabolical extension and reach, an almost palpable breath of infection spreading from the wall shadows.
This is an important and memorable work, which I recommend be acquired by American University, or one of our museums, as a key reminder of the Covidian Age and more importantly, how a truly gifted artist reacted to it.
The exhibit is free and open to the public and runs through December 12, 2021.