Among the three recently opened exhibitions at the University Art Museum, “Signs of His Times: Gary H. Brown’s Works and Selected Gifts to the University Art Museum” is instantly memorable, filled with iconic and inspiring pieces that are a must-see for any art enthusiast on campus.
Brown, a professor emeritus of art at UCSB, had his home and most of his possessions destroyed in last year’s Tea Fire. The exhibit was conceived to honor him and his innumerous contributions to UCSB, and it features a number of pieces from his personal collection, as well as his own artistic oeuvre, all of which underscore an emphasis on political activism.
John Bommer’s “Give Up Now or Wait and See What’s Coming” (1985) explores and utilizes language through signs, transmitting a message of hope with regard to the A.I.D.S. crisis of the ’80s. Featuring a black-and-white photo of a man and a woman waiting helplessly before an oncoming train, Bommer articulates the tragic consequences that result from giving up; he instead offers an optimistic, liberating alternative to the defeatist, dire dialogue surrounding the crisis of the time.
Also striking is Ray Johnson’s “Untitled (Part of Rimbaud Face Event),” which serves as a discourse on artistic and creative collectivity. A pioneer of so-called “mail art,” Johnson was a part of a movement known as the “correspondence art community,” which functioned as a conduit for artists to connect and collaborate with each other through postcards and various assemblage projects.
Andy Warhol’s famous “Campbell’s Soup Can on Shopping Bag” (1966) is also a part of the collection, and keeps up the exhibit’s concerns with political, social and cultural commentaries. Warhol’s piece focuses particularly on the mass industrialization and mass consumption of the newly emergent utilitarian-dominated society at the time it was crafted.
Similarly, Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s “Rimbaud dans Paris” (1978) is a social critique aimed at the contemporaneous French politicians Pignon-Ernest viewed as hypocritical and corrupt. He uses Rimbaud’s image ironically, placing his visionary, revolutionary figure against the backdrop of the city, heightening the need for individual activism in times of political and economic hardship.
Overall, the collection underpins socio-political discontent and critique and exposes social injustices while calling for activism and liberation. This offers a nice complement to “Toward Enlightenment: The Sacred Art of Tibet,” also currently on exhibit at the UAM, coinciding with the Dalai Lama’s upcoming UCSB appearances on April 24.
This rich, opulent catalogue features Tibetan paintings ranging from the 14th to 19th centuries, each of which emphasize the importance of Buddhist teachings and the quest toward enlightenment. Both exhibitions will remain on view through June 14.
The museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and admission is free to all.