What’s new at the Owens

Artist contrasts the artificial and the natural in new Owens exhibit.

Juan Ortiz-Apuy’s art focuses on collage and forces viewers to make various connections between art and life.

Artist Juan Ortiz-Apuy visited the Owens Art Gallery last week prior to the opening of his exhibit at the gallery. His talk marked the Owens’ first public event of the new year. Ortiz-Apuy’s exhibit Fountain Mist opened at a double reception with Dave Dyment’s exhibit Pop Quiz.

Born in Costa Rica, Ortiz-Apuy has spent much of his adult life working and living in Canada, having attended both Concordia and NSCAD universities, as well as the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. At his artist talk, Ortiz-Apuy touched on only the exhibits he had presented from 2011 onward.

Ortiz-Apuy said he keenly believes that alternative interpretations invite a wider audience to his art. “It’s important to me that things have different layers and different readings and different entry points for different kinds of audiences,” said Ortiz-Apuy about a recent exhibit during which he grew orchids in an artificial setting with humidifiers and bright lights. “So somebody who might not know what that plant is and what it represents can be there in a different way.”

Ortiz-Apuy referenced the Bauhaus school as a source of inspiration, a German art school from the 1930s that used the study of design and aesthetics to create everyday objects. “What is the dream of the Bauhaus actually came true, but kind of became a nightmare with IKEA,” said Ortiz-Apuy, who has used both IKEA furniture and material from their catalogue to create his work. “Where you have that mass design, that is kind of cheap design in a way, like ‘fast food’ design.”

Fine arts student Julia Crowell enjoyed the talk on Wednesday night, saying that Ortiz-Apuy “experiments with materials in ways that I didn’t really think of before” and noting how he uses perceptions of objects as well as colour and space to present his point. “Tying into the idea of commodity and commodity fetishism I thought was an interesting angle as well,” she said.

Juan Ortiz-Apuy’s art focuses on collage and forces viewers to make various connections between art and life.

On Friday night, a reception marked the opening of Fountain Mist. Students and community members alike wandered through the two new exhibits at the casual event. Ortiz-Apuy’s space included a sculpture made of IKEA furniture that reflected the themes of the six collages hung on the walls.

“I personally really like it when an exhibit is meant to enhance the pieces and the space itself becomes part of the exhibit,” said Laika Pollock, a first-year fine arts student, referencing the details added to the walls of the gallery, such as black stripes behind the pieces. “It adds to the aesthetic of the space.”

The works on display mixed the natural and the artificial, for example showing an orange sitting atop a bottle of orange juice while on a different piece a similar image is shown, instead showing a sponge and a spray bottle. Margaret Grant, a first-year modern languages student, said, “I think it’s really interesting how the artist has combined a lot of images that we associate with nature but then put them in a very commercial context,” indicating the images of the similar-looking orange and sponge.

Fountain Mist will be on exhibit until March 6.

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