The Cypress College Art Gallery opened Within, a new exhibition Thursday evening that includes unique interactive art pieces and a series of performances and artist lectures.
Within opened to the public Thursday at 6 p.m and will be open until November 5. Within features both traditional and interactive artwork, all based on the production and embodiment of knowledge. Each piece was created by a professional artist and was put together in the Cypress Art Gallery by the school’s Gallery Studies class.
The exhibit includes Par Course C: Formation, Drill, Maneuver by Aisha Hunt and Taisha Peggett who worked with veterans’ groups to build an obstacle course that evokes the lives of those in the military through movement and thought exercises.
Another popular piece during the opening was Mexercise, filmed by Mariah Garnett and featuring performance artists Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes. Participants were encouraged to follow Gómez-Peña and Siguentes’ exercise instructions on an exercise area in front of the film displayed on a television screen.
Part of the gallery was dedicated to Guru Rugu’s Greatest Hits (pictured above), where viewers were invited to sit on pillows and meditate to some recorded inspirational words from the artist Adam Overton’s alter-ego Guru Rugu.
Within curator Chloë Flores shares her experience
Within was created by Chloë Flores, a Los Angeles-based independent curator. Flores aims to make art more accessible to the public by evoking a reaction to the unique pieces in Within.
“Art has been said to have this transformative power, but everyone’s so afraid,” she says. “I hear all the time ‘I don’t know art; I don’t know whether it’s good or not,’ and I’m constantly telling people ‘Whatever you like, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to understand it.'”
“I feel like there’s this aura of art, and it’s really about breaking down that wall and making things a little more accessible to people,” she adds. “Hopefully people will be able to engage with it and enjoy it, and bring life back into the activity of art viewing.”
Flores, who received her Masters of Art and Curatorial Practice in the Public Sphere from the University of Southern California in 2011, says this is her first exhibit at Cypress College.
“My experience here has been really amazing,” said Flores. “I’d love to do another project here. I really like the aspect of interacting with students and teaching them how to run a gallery. You don’t really get that when you open in a museum or a gallery. You don’t get that built-in audience. This exhibition is really just as much as their exhibition as the artists’ as they worked so hard to put it together.”
“This art exhibition is about the production of knowledge, and that’s what a college is about,” Flores said. “So, it being situated in a junior college, you’re also talking about how we process information in our bodies when we’re in our classrooms. I not only really like the aspect of production of knowledge in your body in art but also the production of knowledge of information in general, in the student body.”
Aside from Within, Flores’ other work includes Chloë Flores, a curatorial art project in which she uses a Facebook page in her name to exhibit others’ art. The page is run by a different artist every month, and they are given free rein to use it as a platform for their work. In 2011, she co-curated Work After Work at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture Mackey Garage Top in Los Angeles, and Public Postage: Responses to Art Against Empire at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) in 2010. From 2005 to 2007, she co-curated enView, an art gallery in Long Beach.
Flores is also the director of GuestHaus Residency (GHR). Founded together with Tim Lefevre, GHR offers visiting artists and scholars a place to stay for their projects in Los Angeles.
Gallery Studies class built Within
Ed Giardina, art professor, teaches the Gallery Studies class here at Cypress, and was one of those who spearheaded putting the exhibit together. He says that his students found valuable experience in building Within with the exhibit’s artists.
“From teaching the gallery class, one of the big things is learning how to install this type of socially-engaged work, which is different than handling traditional artwork like drawings and paintings,” said Giardina. “I like the idea of the students working with artists that work with people, because they don’t get to do that often.”
“I love this show,” he adds. “I’ve worked so intimately with so many of the pieces, it’s hard to say which one I like most. I really respect all the work in this exhibition.”
Two students who helped build the exhibit, Cindy Velasquez, 30, and Arturo Ruiz, 21, both art majors, were at the event overseeing the snacks table.
“Working with the artist is very good experience,” Velasquez said. “They told us what to do, and we helped them build what they needed. You get an in-depth of what’s behind the scenes and you have the experience and the knowledge of understanding how everything works.”
“It seems to be more different. It gives you a different perspective of how artists see,” added Ruiz.
“I think it’s a great experience and a way to learn if you’re gonna become an artist, it’s good to know what’s also behind the scenes instead of just painting,” said Velasquez.
Striking a chord Within students
Various members of the Cypress College community, including various students from art classes, attended the opening event for Within. Faculty and staff from the Fine Arts Division, as well as College President Bob Simpson, also went to the event. Students, in particular, found Within particularly interesting.
“It’s very different from what mainstream would really try to make you think,” said ultrasound technology major Miranda Fulk, 18. “I think that you have to have an open mind about it.”
Nasam Chokr, 16, bioengineering major, and Muhamad Farhat, 19, mechanical engineering major, attended the event as a requirement for their art class.
“We have to sketch at least one work from the exhibit,” said Chokr. “It’s very interesting.”
Farhat agreed, saying that the exhibit is “different–there’s a lot of new things.”
Priya Kaur, 22, nursing major and Isabella Eisenpresser, acting major, 20, enjoyed the waterbed that was part of artist Julie Tolentino’s On Our Backs: After Raised by Wolves, and expressed their excitement about the arts programs.
“This exhibit is very relaxing,” said Eisenpresser. “I love the waterbed. I love that the arts are still being supported in our school. I feel that we should have more of these to build awareness for the programs because this is necessary. We can’t lose this.”
“It allows everyone to open up,” said Kaur. “Especially the arts. We don’t put enough emphasis on arts. We’re coming from all backgrounds and lifestyles, and this is a way for everyone to get together and talk about their differences and their similarities, and just have fun.”
“Look at us, we’re connecting, we’re meeting new people. We’re bonding through arts. Arts and waterbeds,” said Eisenpresser.
More information about Within is available at the Cypress College Art Gallery’s website.
Featured Photo: Three students participate in Guru Rugu’s Greatest Hits, one of the pieces in the exhibit Within. Photo by Jeff Lopez