How Far We’ve Come: A Day on Campus

How Far We’ve Come: A Day on Campus

Today was a change of atmosphere for us.

Rather than making the now-habitual journey into Penn Station, we began the day on campus, with a discussion on how far the course has taken us up to this point. We reviewed our classmates’ websites, and took a look at our own. Critiques and lauding were both given, and then we segued into discussing upcoming projects.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere, one that prompted reflection on the experience of our first month of New York semester. We were asked to read a bit on Richard Serra prior to class, specifically a New York Times article entitled, “Richard Serra Will Jolt You Awake.” It seemed like an interesting article. I must admit, I wasn’t too familiar with Richard Serra’s work when we began Art Semester. Our encounter with his Torqued Ellipses at Dia:Beacon was my first time seeing his work in person, and he seems to keep popping up from there. When we went gallery-hopping through Chelsea the first time, we found his show at one of the Gagosian’s locations. His “Reverse Curve” monopolized the gigantic room in which it was installed, so much so that it practically split the space in two. The otherworldly acoustics hadn’t changed, and it was fun to see a familiar artist.

The article opens quite dramatically, in my opinion, with Peter Schjeldahl declaring Richard Serra the great Western sculptor of the modern era. He asserts that Serra is the modern equivalent to Bernini (which caught my attention, Bernini being one of my favorite artists), no matter what anyone thinks. Not being as acquainted with the artist’s work as I would like, I found that starting the article was a tad jarring. As it continues, Schjeldahl explains his big claims through describing the beauty that comes through once one has contemplated on a Richard Serra work long enough, despite any initial aversion. I could somewhat agree with that, as my initial reaction to “Torqued Ellipses” eventually melted into appreciation. But I wasn’t averse to seeing them for the first time, more so stunned by their mammoth size.

We spoke a bit about the article and then broke for lunch, reconvening at the Methodist Archives on campus. Meeting with one of the Archives’ main instructors Candace Reilly, we proceeded down into the underbelly of the Archives to see the Art Vault. The Art Vault houses the university’s collection of contemporary and Methodist art, both collections containing rare, irreplaceable pieces. Fortified in what is practically a bunker with controlled climate, the Art Vault has had a tumultuous history, and frankly sad history. It stands as an attempt to correct the college’s past neglect of its valuable artwork, while also possessing several empty spaces for the artwork that has yet to be found.


Being an employee of the Archives, I’ve seen the Art Vault before. But it was an enjoyable experience to see it with the class, and gain a bit more history that I hadn’t acquired before. I hadn’t known much about the Lee Hall work we had within the vault, as well how deep Hall’s connections were with other notable contemporary artists.

Every week, our class visits numerous galleries and institutions. We are introduced to these hubs of art, these individual spheres of influence, where we can easily appreciate the progression of modern art as it is mapped out in front of us. Constantly travelling makes it all the more humbling then to learn about of a collection of art right under your nose, residing on the same campus. It may not be as expansive or comprehensive as the MoMa’s collection, but it tells just as much history, I think. I like to see it as giving a taste of artistic progression on a more local scale, a view of the art world you could only get from a small college. It’s a unique perspective, whether or not that may be initially apparent.

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