ArtRap created a venue for the public and local artists to discuss social issues in contemporary art at the Center for Contemporary Arts Feb. 12.
Debbie Manns, gallery manager and marketing director, and Burgess Thomas, curator of fun learning experiences, led the conversation about social issues in the presence of two of the artists whose exhibits are currently on display.
According to the Center’s website, ArtRap is “a dialogue about consumerism, environmentalism, sexuality, racism, drug abuse and depression and how artists from current exhibits have confronted those issues and dealt with them through their art.”
“Very seldom is the artist there to explain meaning to you,” Manns said. “So we thought we would open up some conversations to try to talk about what contemporary art means, how to interpret it, how to enjoy it and how to, hopefully, help people appreciate what it’s all about.”
The topic was purposefully driven to address why certain art makes viewers uncomfortable and what an art consumer can then do about it, Manns said.
“We trivialize problems that still exist by trying to pretend that they don’t exist,” Manns said.
Russell Ellison, one of the artists behind the exhibit Studio 1 & Studio 2 and Chase Turk, the artist behind the exhibit Plastic were two among the artists who attended the ArtRap.
“Probably one of the most difficult issues is trying to make people understand just what is contemporary art,” Ellison said. “In dealing with social issues, many times racial issues particularly, a lot of people think we still don’t have any. But it’s obvious we still do.”
Turk’s exhibit, Plastic, is a series of collage pieces with prose attached to them that further the meaning behind each piece of art. His work, displayed in Gallery 4, is placed in a chronological narrative.
“Contemporary art is more about pushing the envelope, pushing boundaries, breaking down walls,” he said. “I don’t see a lot of that.”
The exhibit was based almost entirely on personal experience with a strong emphasis on his love for idioms and playing with words, Turk said.
“Being uncomfortable isn’t fatal, it’s just one of those signs we have about, ‘Maybe I should give this more thought?'” Thomas said. “That’s what contemporary art does to people. It causes you to think, and that in itself can make many people uncomfortable.”