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Current issues probed in Contemporary Art Galleries’ displays

by Sherry Fisher - October 16, 2006

Male body image, the impact of math on society, and dysfunctional corporate culture are a few of the themes of exhibits that have been held in UConn's Contemporary Art Galleries since 2004.

Barry Rosenberg, the galleries' director, says his shows are like a newsreel. "I deal with issues that are happening today," he says.

Works by artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Janine Antoni, and Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as other emerging artists in the world of contemporary art, have graced the walls of the galleries.

"We bring in works that would be on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York," he says. "It's important to bring in world-class artists; they have something important to say."

The shows have received accolades from the art world. Last year, an exhibit called Kiss: When a Kiss isn't Just a Kiss, was selected by the American Association of Museums as one of the four best museum exhibits in North America during 2005.

The award was given for concept, presentation, quality of individual works, and how the exhibit was used at the University.

"I'm very proud of the award," Rosenberg says.

"Our small gallery won over museums with millions of dollars to spend on their exhibitions. We bring in great art and we do it on a tiny budget, but we do it creatively."

Kiss dealt with gender issues, Rosenberg says. "In one painting, Batman and Robin are embracing, another work depicts Rodin's 'The Kiss' painted in chocolate.

There was also a larger-than-life sculptural portrayal of the artist Rachel Mason kissing President Bush." Rosenberg says the shows usually have themes.

Math Counts was a show that dealt with how math has changed the world. Doing Business was about business ethics.

The exhibit Figuring the Landscape is on display at the Contemporary Art Galleries through Friday.

"It has some of today's important young figurative painters from Europe and North America, Rosenberg says.

Rachel Hubbard, left, a senior majoring in art history, and Crystal Pretzman, a junior majoring in art history.
Rachel Hubbard, left, a senior majoring in art history, and Crystal Pretzman, a junior majoring in art history, look at “The March,” by Till Gerhard, part of the Figuring the Landscape exhibit on display at the Contemporary Art Galleries in the Fine Arts Building.
Photo by Jordan Bender

Neo Rauch, educated at the legendary Leipzig Academy, is one of them.

Rauch's painting "Nebel" is on loan from tennis star John McEnroe.

"It was interesting getting it here," says Rosenberg.

"It was in his penthouse on the 21st floor. We realized we couldn't get it down the stairs, so we had to come back another day and lower it out of a window four stories down."

Collectors and galleries are willing to lend works to Rosenberg because they know the University has high quality shows, he says.

Figuring the Landscape would be "terrific" for a class in German, Rosenberg says, because of the number of German artists, and issues that deal with politics of the east and west, like the Berlin Wall.

"Many people think of contemporary art as being very abstract," Rosenberg says.

"It's not the case in this exhibit. The show is about breaking the rules."

He says the exhibits are "not just about art hanging in a gallery.

A student can come here and learn how paint is applied to a canvas. Another student can come in and we could discuss gender issues or poetry."

Rosenberg notes that he and the galleries' docents will customize class tours to fit a professor's needs.

"I encourage departments, programs, and centers to use the galleries as an educational resource," he says.

"I view the art as a way of opening up issues to discussion, which is what a University is all about. The galleries should be an integral part of campus life."

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