Arts art exhibit review

At the intersection of art and technology

Kwade’s ‘In Between Glances’ is the perfect art exhibit for MIT

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Visitors tour Alicja Kwade's 'In Between Glances' exhibit at the MIT List Visual Arts Center.

In Between Glances
Alicja Kwade
MIT List Visual Arts Center
On display until Jan. 5, 2020

Alicja Kwade’s In Between Glances is on display at the MIT List Visual Arts Center and is a perfect fit for the venue at the intersection of art and technology. 

Kwade is an internationally renowned artist primarily known for her sculptures and installations, which use ordinary found objects and transform them to make viewers question societal norms. The first pieces you see when entering the gallery are from her Reconstituted Objects series. Consisting of a chair and several vases, each on a brass pedestal and presented in glass, Reconstituted Objects looks almost like a collection of historical artifacts in a museum. The objects don’t look too special; each is made of a dull, metallic, speckled material. But the names of each piece betray their significance. A large urn titled “Computer (Powermac)” was once actually a computer, which Kwade ground into a powder to make a completely new object. Reconstituted Objects is a collection of pieces that are more meaningful than they are pretty. Viewers ponder the idea of transformation and consider the functions that everyday objects play in their lives.

Just past Reconstituted Objects is a group of three large carved tree trunks. Kwade used a robot arm to cut partial stools, coat racks, and canes out of the wood with great detail. Object-Tree Works seems almost out of place, natural and unpolished in contrast to Kwade’s other, more carefully refined works. It’s also the hardest to understand at first and were definitely my least favorite pieces of the show. That being said, it is interesting to look at and made me think about the relationship between material and final product.

To the left, an abacus hangs on the wall, so small that it’s easy to miss. On the ground below it most of its beads are scattered, which for a moment I thought someone forgot to clean up. But the piece has a very contemplative feel to it that brings up questions of how things are measured and given value.

Trans-For-Men 11 (Fibonacci) is the star of the show, the row of rocks and mirrors shown in all the advertisements for the exhibit. It’s a clear representation of transformation. In the center is a granite boulder, to either side of which Kwade placed five other stones of a variety of materials from sandstone to bronze. Using 3-D scans, Kwade formed each rock to progressively transform from the shape of the boulder to the shape of a sphere on one side and a cube on the other. The mirrors placed between each rock seamlessly blend each form into the next. Trans-For-Men 11 (Fibonacci) is beautiful to look at, but it also references the connections between contrasting things, the impact of different materials, and the power of technology to record and create.

At the end of my tour of the exhibit, I walk into an adjacent room and am immediately caught off guard by the magnitude of A Light Touch of Totality. Trans-For-Men 11 (Fibonacci) was promoted the most, but this piece might be even more impressive. It’s never been displayed before it was set up in the List Visual Arts Center, and it responds to the space that it takes up. It consists of five massive intersecting stainless steel rings, from which are strung hundreds of strands of beads. The beads are primarily strings of white wooden beads on which are printed letters, punctuated every now and then by blue lapis lazuli beads. It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s supposed to be — just like the shower of information we experience on a daily basis.

Just outside the exhibit is Kwade’s Against the Run installation. At first glance, it looks like a regular clock; but when you look at it longer, you notice that with each tick of the second hand, the entire clock face turns backward. It’s strangely calming to stand and watch the clock turn for a few moments, and it’s a good way to reflect on the connections between the past and present.

In Between Glances is an exhibition worth checking out. On campus, it’s easy to stop by after or between classes. Kwade’s works are great to contemplate the world we live in. There could not have been an art exhibition better suited for MIT than this one.