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REVIEW: Visitors can confront ideas about modern art and self at SoWa’s Form and Emptiness

When I entered the “Form and Emptiness” exhibition at Fountain Street Gallery, I immediately noticed that each piece was unique. The gallery, open until Jan.15, features the work of over 20 artists who use different mediums to amplify their artistic voices.

I entered the gallery to repetitious but calming ambient music and immediately encountered a piece of art, in an unidentifiable form, depicting the human feeling of waiting. It was titled “Waiting,” by Virginia Mahoney, and it became an instant favorite of mine. Inscriptions like “What is it that you’re waiting for?” and “SIT TIGHT RETICENCE AVERSION” kept me excited for the rest of the visit.

One of my personal favorites was Robert Sullivan’s “Vanitatum” oil on panel piece. Sullivan appeals to fears of war by depicting a woman noticing a missile in the sky. Since viewers can’t see the woman’s face, they are forced to take in the emotion of the dreary setting alone. It isn’t as visually busy as many of the other pieces, which ultimately serves “Vanitatum” well.

Photo of art
Joseph Fontinha’s “Summer of 42.” The “Form and Happiness” exhibition at Fountain Street Gallery showcases mixed media artwork by more than 20 artists. COURTESY OF FOUNTAIN STREET GALLERY

The sculptures in the exhibition were some of the most emotional pieces and many brought together elements of past and present. The facial expressions on Natasha Dikareva’s haunting sculptures “All I want is peace” and “Listen Europe” stood out as the most thought-provoking pieces of the exhibition and left me with questions about the artist’s intention.

As I walked through the gallery, I didn’t once think to myself, “I could do that,” a sentiment often echoed about contemporary art. Many of the works are busy, and perhaps even overwhelming.

Normally, I turn to older, classic works for an escape. But walking through the exhibition, I found value in prioritizing contemporary art because of its connections to our modern world. Politics have influenced art historically and similarly, we aren’t separate from the ideas that inform today’s art. The work in this gallery deals with climate change, communication and multiple perspectives on violence.

The art leaves visitors with a feeling of emptiness — especially when combined with the certain confrontations they will face with both themselves and the world. The exhibition greeted me with the overwhelming proclamations of “Waiting” by Mahoney and didn’t allow me to leave without a direct confrontation with traditional religion in Steve Sangapore’s “Contenta Absentis,” which combined oil and 24 karat gold.

What unites the artists in “Form and Emptiness” is their modern imagination and use of new mediums, such as inkjet printers.

“Hideout” by Vander Sluis — one of the most creative and innovative pieces — used caution tape and other construction symbols to carefully form a cramped shelter. It stood out from where it hung near the entrance of the gallery.

I came in with my own ideas about the world but left the gallery somewhat pessimistic and somewhat in awe.

“Form and Emptiness” isn’t a fun lighthearted activity, but a bold, thought-provoking gallery fit for visitors seeking out art that makes you sit and think, or stare and fidget.

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