Feature Articles

February 2014

College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, Features Works by Bob Trotman and Jody Zellen

The College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, is presenting two new exhibits including: Bob Trotman: Business as Usual and Jody Zellen: Above the Fold, both on view at The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts, through Mar. 8, 2014. A gallery walk-through with Trotman and Zellen will be offered on Feb. 1, beginning at 2pm.

These exhibitions explore the human condition in very different ways. Zellen presents humans in her work as abstracted, nameless ciphers navigating a complex and often violent world. Through her use of one full year of the New York Times “World News” website, Zellen presents us to ourselves through the media, mediated in a variety of ways. Trotman’s approach is much more direct and less abstracted, but his sculptural works address the corporate world with all of its discontents. His larger than life human figures are suffused with dread, melancholy, or desperation, yet they are cloaked in the uniform of the powerful. Through both artists’ works, we see the de-civilizing effects of greed, power, and privilege.

Working mostly in wood, Bob Trotman sees his efforts in relation to the vernacular traditions of carved religious figures, ships’ figureheads, and the so-called “show figures” found outside shops in the nineteenth century. However, as a contemporary artist, he wants to create installations that suggest an absurdist office-like arena in which we can see, more nakedly than usual, the elaborate posturings of power, privilege, and pretense that secretly, or not so secretly, shape the world we live in. His point of view is both sympathetic and critical: those with power have much to answer for. If there were such a thing as corporate purgatory, this is what it might look like.

Trotman was born in 1947 in Winston-Salem, NC, received a BA in philosophy from Washington and Lee University, and for 40 years has maintained a studio in western North Carolina. He has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and four fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council. His work is in the permanent collections of The Renwick Gallery (Smithsonian Institution), The Columbia Museum of Art, The North Carolina Museum of Art, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, The Art Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design, The Mint Museum of Art, The Weatherspoon Art Museum and The Museum of Art and Design in New York, among others.

Above the Fold is an exhibition of a series of artworks that take their point of departure from world news images from the New York Times. Included in the exhibition are gouache on paper paintings, digital images, an interactive installation with multiple animations and an iPad application.

Above the Fold traditionally refers to the upper half of the front page of a newspaper where an important story or photograph catches the attention of passersby. In the digital age it refers to what is visible on the screen without scrolling. These images proliferate endlessly suggesting that the news is entertainment. Zellen calls attention to this bombardment by creating her own over-saturated installation. She begins with an image that appears above the fold culled from both digital and print media and proceeds to alter it in a variety of ways. In one series of works she reduces the image to its essential pixels distilling the photograph into a grid of colors. While the original image is diffused, it never disappears. Through a process of layering fragments taken from news photographs she builds an abstract composition. Images of war, man-made and natural disasters and the destruction they cause are ubiquitous in the digital age. Today one expects instantaneous documentation of events as they occur. By appropriating this imagery Zellen changes its context and therefore the way the images communicate and how what they represent is understood.

Zellen is a Los Angeles-based artist who works in many media, simultaneously making interactive installations, mobile apps, animations, drawings, paintings, photographs, public art, and artists’ books. Zellen received a BA from Wesleyan University (1983), a MFA from CalArts (1989), and a MPS degree from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (2009). She is a recipient of an Artistic Innovation Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation (2011) and a Mid-Career Artist’s Fellowship from the California Community Foundation (2012). Her installations include Transitions, DNJ Gallery, Santa Monica, California (2013); The Unemployed, Disseny Hub Museum, Barcelona (2011), and Cerritos College, California (2009); The Blackest Spot, Fringe Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA (2008); and Trigger, Pace University, New York (2005). Most recently, she has been making mobile apps. Spine Sonnet, Urban Rhythms, Art Swipe, 4 Square, and Episodic are all available for free in the iTunes Store.

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston provides a multidisciplinary laboratory for the production, presentation, interpretation, and dissemination of ideas by innovative visual artists from around the world. As a non-collecting museum, we create meaningful interactions between adventurous artists and diverse communities within a context that emphasizes the historical, social, and cultural importance of the art of our time.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Institute at 843/953-4422 or visit (www.halsey.cofc.edu).

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