Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Ready (or Not), here comes art appreciation

02/16/2017 - 5pm
Marshall Zerbe's gas nozzle flower vase

“Ready (or Not)” sculptures by Southwestern Michigan College Art Appreciation students are inspired in part by Marcel Duchamp’s “readymades.”

Readymades are manufactured objects Duchamp modified as an antidote to visually-fetching “retinal art,” such as 1917’s Fountain, made from a porcelain urinal.

Simply choosing utilitarian objects, repositioning or joining them, titling them and signing them, made found items art.

Duchamp was a pioneer of Dada, a movement that questioned long-held art assumptions prior to World War I.

He found success painting in Paris, but gave it up almost entirely because, “I was interested in ideas — not merely in visual products.”

Defying the notion art must be beautiful, Duchamp argued, “An ordinary object (could be) elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”

Due to the delicate nature of works on view through March 2 in the Art Gallery, room 108 of the Dale A. Lyons Building on SMC’s Dowagiac campus, hours will be Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; and Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon-3 p.m.

Visual and Performing Arts Chairman Marc Dombrosky, who joined SMC in 2010, explained, “This show arose out of us expanding our Art Appreciation (Art 110) offerings. In the fall 2012, we ran one section of 19 students for the entire college. We had two sections in spring 2013 — nine in Niles and 15 in Dowagiac, 24 total, or 43 students for all of 2012-13. In fall 2016 we ran five sections with a total of 109 students enrolled. This semester (spring 2017) we’re running six sections for 102 students, so from 43 four years ago to 211.”

In 1942, Pablo Picasso created Bull’s Head from a bike seat and handlebars.

Students explore not only Duchamp and Picasso, but Meret Oppenheim, Haim Steinbach, Gabriel Orozco and Sarah Sze.

Dombrosky called Feb. 16’s reception both the shortest and the longest because his art-history class stayed on for a lecture that used “Ready (or Not)” as a springboard.

“I thought of the exhibition and reception themselves being a readymade,” Dombrosky said. “People come expecting to look at art, eat cookies and drink punch, essentially transforming into a whole new form as a lecture. I introduce new material in class by looking at historical things, then we make projects together. These are all works made in the last two weeks by our students. Pieces keep changing in front of me,” with some yet to be shown going forward.

Professor Shannon Eakins added, “It’s important to mention with Art Appreciation, these are students who do not self-identify as artists, but novices. Their mission was to find meaning in objects around them, to think about how objects we exist with have embedded meaning and how even small manipulations can create something with a whole new meaning.

“This is most of these students’ first sculpture. When you tell a group of people who aren’t sculptors, ‘You’re going to make sculpture next class,’ the look you get is WHAAT!” Eakins said.

Dombrosky said Marshall Zerbe of Decatur’s Reclamation, which turns a gas pump nozzle into a vase for silk flowers, “is so Michigan — kind of hopeful, but also tragic ruin.”

Students wrote papers explaining each piece in their own words.