Curator, Writer, and Museum Administrator

Flow, Just Flow: Variations on a Theme

Flow, Just Flow: Variations on a Theme

Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, University of Richmond, January 29 through June 28, 2013

Today’s constant bombardment of information made possible via digital access, the mixing of previously distinct cultures and ideas, and the increasing speed and ease of global travel has produced a simultaneous and continuous flow of both physical and non-physical entities. To be a socially and politically engaged person, partaking in this flow seems to be mandatory. Living “off-the-grid” in most economically developed societies is largely a conscious choice, requiring fortitude and foresight, particularly if one wants to communicate with others, i.e. taking oneself out of the flow. 

Because the word “flow” is an apt and often-used term to describe this constant state of activity, an examination of the word’s many meanings and applications seems appropriate for contemporary artists, viewers, and readers. The possibilities are as endless as the word’s many definitions, such as to move freely, circulate, appear graceful, derive, be plentiful, flood, and rise.

The exhibition includes photographs by Shinichi Maruyama, a Japanese photographer currently based in New York. The exhibition will have works from two of his photographic series, Kusho (2006) and NUDE (2012). Both series highlight abstract moments of ephemerality and freeze them, giving a sense of permanence to movements that are typically fleeting. Kusho, literally meaning “writing in the sky,” shows a collision between sumi calligraphy ink and water being flung into the air. In conjunction with his Kusho series, Maruyama produced an artistic collaboration with choreographer Jessica Lang [who gave a performance of their collaboration at the Modlin Center of the Arts at the University of Richmond in September 2012]. Maruyama used the human figure as the subject for his most recent collection of photographs entitled NUDE, where he blurs and distorts the body performing a series of rapid, spontaneous movements. The figure is indiscernible, what is left is the flow of the body’s dynamism.

Katy Stone, a Seattle-based installation artist, has two pieces featured in the exhibition. Her work has been shown in many national and international galleries and she has received numerous public art commissions. Stone’s artworks are both Rorschach-like tests of natural phenomena and rich harvests of line, shape, and color. She paints on a variety of materials and layers the elements into sculptural assemblages and installations that blur the boundaries between drawing, painting, and sculpture. One of the pieces, Lunar Drift (2011), presents organic-shaped forms floating away from the wall, bit by bit, detaching themselves from the larger, flowing group. Her work suggests growth, expansion, and outpouring, touching on the dynamic between containment and release, expressing an urge for liberation and transformation.

Also featured is We Feel Fine (2005) by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, a digital data visualization displaying global web entries of people’s feelings at the moment of posting. Every few minutes, the software searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, the software records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence. Through their studies, Harris and Kamvar have observed the difference in emotions depending on variables such as age, gender, and time of year. It is their desire to explain and explore the emotions of the human world. Although Harris and Kamvar have created the visualization, they make a point in asserting that it is universally authored. Harris is a recognized computer systems designer and Kamvar is a Consulting Professor of Computational Mathematics at Stanford University.

The exhibition is organized by University of Richmond Museums and curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions, University of Richmond Museums. The exhibition and programs are made possible in part by the University’s Cultural Affairs Committee, and funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund. Additional support has been provided by grants from the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and the Austrian Cultural Forum, Washington, D.C.

The exhibition is accompanied by an online catalogue featuring works in the exhibition, essays, and interviews conducted by Elizabeth Schlatter and Sarah Matheson, ’13, studio art major and art history minor, University of Richmond.

Click here to view the exhibition catalogue.