'Mass' takes over the McIntosh Gallery

Photo exhibit both socially conscious and aesthetically pleasing

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Ian MacEachern’s

ISN’T IT STRANGE HOW WE ALL SORT OF LOOK ALIKE? YOU KNOW, LIKE WE’re ATTENDING SOME SORT OF CONVENTION. SO WHO ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE? Ian MacEachern’s “Elvis Competition 2004” is just one of the many photography pieces featured this week at the MacIntosh Gallery.

“Mass: Culture and Society Exhibit 2A,” the McIntosh Gallery’s latest photo-based art exhibit, is an eye-opening exploration into our everyday world.

“Mass art is a concept that has been around for a while,” says gallery director Arlene Kennedy. “We wanted to know what it looks like now.”

According to guest curator Michael Mullan, the exhibit’s photography is closely tied to its sub-themes, which include built environments, cultural images, and appropriated images.

“Photography is used to sell images and ideas, so [the pieces] look at what ideas are being sold and to whom,” Mullan says.

“Photography as a fine art is an old debate, but we have always collected it,” Kennedy says.

“The camera is an extension of the artist’s eye. The way that they choose to frame it is where the artist maintains control.”

Many of the exhibit’s artists are concerned with urban planning and land-use issues, particularly the battle between open spaces and big-block megastores. The exhibit casts a critical and humourous light on the modern world and showcases 22 artists’ work.

The exhibit includes a haunting image of a parking complex at night and an amusing yet disturbing picture of Barbie with her head in an oven.

As its name suggests, the exhibit emphasizes mass culture’s powerful impact on society. For example, Ian MacEachern’s “Elvis Competition 2004,” which features a group of Elvis impersonators, reflects The King’s overwhelming influence on numerous individuals.

“[MacEachern] came to me with the idea that he had for a while and I thought it was interesting,” Mullan says.

“We choose shows based on their relevance to the various communities we serve, [which includes Western] students.”

The exhibit also displays digitally manipulated art. Mullan’s “Conversations 2005” combines photos and text. According to Mullan, the image’s composition and the accompanying text contrast when regarded separately and together.

Though the exhibit’s focus is social commentary and not aesthetics, most of show’s work is still very visually appealing.

“Some of the pieces are aesthetically pleasing,” says Aaron Lee, a third-year social science student at Western. “[But] it’s hard to get [the art work’s meaning] without knowing what to look for.”

“Mass: Culture and Society Exhibit 2A” runs until Feb. 25 at the McIntosh Gallery.

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