Two cubes converged in a yellow mound of taffy. Yes, taffy.

On Nov. 9, the Jacob Lawrence Gallery held the opening reception for the second round of its Material Performance exhibition, which includes the work of faculty, alumni, and west coast artists: Nola Avienne, Rebecca Farr, Leon Finley, Jason Hirata, Francesca Lohmann, Amie McNeel, Robert Rhee, Jenny Sabin, Jono Vaughan, and Mark Zirpel.

People sipped, snacked, and mingled as they caught the first glimpses of the exhibition. Murmurs dissolved as Emily Zimmerman, director of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, began to explain the theme of the exhibit. It revolved around three ideas. The first was inspired by a quote by Henri Bergson regarding the interconnected nature of duration and consciousness. The second, the definition of time-based arts, and the third, the concept of new materialism.

“Often one thinks of artworks as static,” Zimmerman said, remarking how artworks are commonly designated as fixed artifacts once they’ve been placed in museums. “The goal of these kinds of institutions is to conserve objects so that they’ll remain forever.”

Material Performance seeks to challenge this culture of preservation, emphasizing ephemerality and dynamism in the displayed works. The exhibition explores time-based art, where the audience commits to a piece from beginning to end. The exhibition brings together painting, sculpture, and other media not typically understood as time-based.

Take Francesca Lohmann’s sculpture, comprised of two blocks of lemon taffy placed adjacent to one another in the center of the back room of the gallery. People circled around the 80-pound structures to bear witness to their tortoise-like flattening. At that point, they looked more like conjoined bean bag cushions than cubes.

“I’m interested in seeing the history of change in the product,” Lohmann remarked, commenting on the influence of time and circumstance of her work. “I like settings where a material can behave according to its nature.”

There was a great deal of play with materials throughout the gallery. Eyeshadow and magnets, a wire-wrapped gourd, and cloth hardened with plaster were all used to comment on how matter interacts with its environment. 

McNeel and Zirpel’s collaborative piece, Asymptote, caught the eyes and ears of many guests, intrigued by its celestial, rhythmic gestures and subtly assertive occupancy of space. The materials for this piece were listed as magnetism, rotation, steel, copper, motor, wood, and light. Dimensions: variable. 

“Light is a story,” Zirpel professed. 

Light, along with its material counterparts, played inextricable roles in the composition of this constantly moving sculpture. Picture a huge copper disk suspended from the ceiling with wing-like attachments and a coil in the center leading down to appendage of sorts, which wriggles and rattles as it continuously connects with different magnets placed on the surface of a rotating sphere on a pedestal. 

On second thought, it may be easier to go see it for yourself.

Material Performance: Part II is open until Dec. 9 at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. 


Reach contributing writer Ren Nguyen at

Twitter: @rengrams

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