Seniors and Interaction Design students Shelby Li and Kelly Graham view pictures from the Change Elevators project, created in 2011 for the Foster School of Business. Photo by Sara Koopai
Three faculty members are up for a promotions in the UW School of Art, two from the design program and one from fine arts. Now, they must showcase their work to prove their eligibility.
In the Art Building’s Jacob Lawrence Gallery, two small rooms hold some of the three artists’ talent — from small models (Sang-gyeun Ahn), to paintings (Ann Gale), to photos of larger completed projects (Karen Cheng). The first room held miniature models of designs by Sang-gyeun Ahn, which combined environmentalism with practical, everyday applications, as well as work by Karen Cheng, an interactive designer whose work ranged from typeface font to the LED screens in the main atrium of Paccar Hall. A second room to the left held nine of Ann Gale’s oil paintings.
This second room held hardly anything, though Gale’s art demands space. The minimalism also contributed to the simplistic impression the exhibit left on me. The white rooms and carefully placed designs, both on the walls and in the center of the room, made them seem modern yet elegant.
To the right of the door, the design exhibit starts with a group of Cheng’s typefaces, accompanied by explanations of the challenges designers have with creating the letters of the English alphabet.
Cheng also designed the interactive wall in the main atrium in Paccar, which houses 23 LED screens that stream Paccar visitors’ own definitions of what business means to them. (The definitions can be typed into a website, Fosterexchange.com.) She also installed the words related to “change” written on the floors of the elevators in stainless steel.
Ahn’s small models are featured in the left wall and center of the first room. His inventions often tackle environmental issues while remaining economically viable, many of which were commissioned by Asian business companies looking for green, innovative solutions. A miniature model of Green Seed, for one, exhibits the air filter that is self-powered, self-controlled, and self-maintained. Commissioned by the Taiwan International Design Competition, the air cleaner also supposedly doesn’t produce by-products or a dirty filter.
Normally there isn’t much of a chance to interact with an exhibit, but with all the displays that prove design is alive in every UW lifestyle, this exhibit felt much more alive. Though the three artists’ talent was distinct, it wasn’t the overall quality of the work that impressed me: It was the wide range of disciplines in which that talent was applicable.
But that wide range created a disconnect between the two rooms. While the two designers’ work complemented each other well in the first room, Gale’s paintings would have melded much better with other fine arts faculty members.
From nanotechnology, to small eco-friendly lifestyle changes, to the font we use on our midterm papers, to the architecture we pass by every day on the way to class; it had never been clearer to me how essential design was. And isn’t that exactly what an exhibit is supposed to do, to show you why it matters?
The exhibit is open now through Oct. 19 at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery on campus.
The verdict: From design to oil paintings, this potpourri exhibit — while a little disconnected — is worth a look to see the often-hidden talent in the UW School of Art.
Reach Development Editor Hayat Norimine at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @HayatNorimine
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