Upon entering the Alvin Gittins Gallery, visitors are immediately greeted by a smoking, Tommy-gun-toting skeleton dressed as a flapper girl. The head is cocked back in a confident display of bravado with an almost comical whimsy about it, making Jessica Burke’s drawing an interesting choice for an entryway. However, it’s that level of confidence that pairs well with its neighbors in the surrounding space. The collection exudes a confidence in execution as well as interpretation, acting as an open invitation for visitors to not only define the art for themselves, but to also become more open to unexpected visual influences. Leave your preconceived notions about what works on paper “should” be and you’ll enter that wonderful mindset of what “could” be.
The reward of this effort becomes evident throughout the gallery space as we view each of the relatively small works as an expression of the individual artist’s own approach to the dialogue it enters with the surrounding work on display. Photographs gaze into adjacent abstractions. Collages mesmerize us with vibrancy, while carefully crafted prints and drawings highlight attention to technique and even craft. The collection of work, though impressive in its own right, is made all the more powerful by the attention paid to its placement in the gallery. This isn’t an easy task in any gallery, and the Gittins has presented challenges for many artists. As a result, any appreciation for the work in the show would be lacking if it fails to also acknowledge the support of its presentation.
While many exhibitions present work as a series of conversations visitors must start with each work of art, PaperWest presents its work as a party arrived at midway through. Guests are welcome to join the dialogue, but the works have been speaking to one another in their absence and will continue to do so when they leave.
PaperWest: A National Works on Paper Juried Exhibition, Gittins Gallery, University of Utah, through Nov. 30. You’ll find all the works on exhibit here.
David “HABBENINK” Habben is a Salt Lake City based illustrator and artist. He is currently working on an MFA at the University of Utah.