Each semester, the Wexner Center for the Arts brings in new artists to cycle exclusive exhibition residencies.
And for the spring semester at Ohio State, the Wexner Center is showcasing works from renowned artists John Waters, Peter Hujar and Alicia McCarthy.
John Waters — a visual artist from Baltimore — is currently presenting “Indecent Exposure,” a collection of more than 160 pieces of various mediums, including digital photography, sound, video and sculpture.
He works to evoke a sense of nostalgia and a gritty aesthetic in his visual art using personal obsessions all through the lens of humor,.
“Art can be dead serious and funny. The irony of any situation I like and I hope to always ask you to look at something in a different way — maybe not agree with me, but consider it,” Waters said. “Always make [people] laugh.”
His exhibit includes works such as chromogenic prints of movie scenes containing just Dorothy Malone’s collar, a “Hollywood-esque” image of himself with facial surgery and a piece depicting the words “Contemporary Art Hates You,” aptly named “…And Your Family Too.”
“Contemporary art has always been witty, but is it wrong to be funny? I try to make fun of things that are horrible,” Waters said.
The late Peter Hujar, an esteemed photographer from New York City, created “Speed of Life,” a collection of 140 photographs organized by the Morgan Library and Museum in New York and Fundacion MAPFRE, Madrid. It is a series of black and white photographs depicting portraits of buildings, people and animals.
“The idea was a complete immersion in his work rather than something that breaks things down into subjects. Somehow, that gives you a historical overview of his career,” said Joel Smith, Richard L. Menschel curator and department head at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan.
Smith said the side-by-side photos create a continuity among the exhibition and forces the viewer to “bridge the gap between one picture and the next.” Smith noted that Hujar is an artist he instinctively recognizes and can feel a connection with.
“It is work that is about how natural it is that everyone has a distinct identity. We aren’t cookie-cutter projects. It is an area of creativity of creating yourself,” Smith said. “The people he found beautiful were the people that were inventing a whole way of living, and it comes through in the work.”
His exhibit includes some of his most famous works, including “Candy Darling on her Deathbed,” “Gay Liberation Front Poster Image” and “Gary Schneider in Contortion.”
Alicia McCarthy, a commended artist from Oakland, California, traveled to Columbus to create “No Straight Lines,” a mural on the walls of the lower lobby of the Wexner Center in November 2018, her first site-specific mural in the Midwest.
McCarthy’s work is abstract and based on simple gestures and lines, which are basic fundamentals but contribute to a variety of forms, said Lucy I. Zimmerman, assistant curator at the Wexner Center for the Arts. The way the lines divide acts as a metaphor for the interaction of people, places and ideas.
“My work is formally simple in that lines and colors are woven together, building a composition,” McCarthy said. “But this mural is a reflection of what stands in front of it: the intersection of people within a community.”
The three artists’ exhibits will run through April 28.