Surprisingly consistent in its inconsistency, Out of Context is a collaborative creative project between John White — gallery owner, artist and arts teacher — and a group of 11 hand-chosen teenage art students from the art program at Vita Art Center in Ventura. Consisting of non-traditional drawing surfaces and media, illogical placement of objects, intuitive creative approaches and found materials as well as the sounds of a melody recorded from the salvaged harp of a piano, the room installation comes together with a visual appeal that’s highlighted by the monochromatic palette of artwork.
A deep primal aspect is perceptible in the recorded melody. It sets the mood as one peruses the room — its song at the core of the creative process of the installation.
“What do you do with that junk?” White often asked his students during the process, as he urged them to be creative with found and discarded objects.
What White referred to as “junk” are objects comprising the larger part of the installation — the “biggest piece of junk” is the rusted harp of a piano, centrally located atop a mound of sand and harnessed by chains from the ceiling beams. Occupying the space traditionally reserved for a nude model in a drawing class, it’s the main visual element around which all else revolves. “I fell in love with its shape,” offers White. “It jumpstarted this entire project.”
As the central idea for the development of the project, the harp inspired most of the artwork. A series of 4 inch-by- 4 inch sketches, drawn on location as Luis Perez (the art program’s director) played the piano harp, hang in garland-fashion across the back wall. White urged the students to draw what the melody felt to them. The result is an engaging pictorial narrative that presents a rich immediacy that comes from little planning and a lyrical diversity of expressive strokes from each student’s personal interpretation of the music.
Echoing the lines of the harp is a wall-drawing created entirely out of drafting tape. Three students took on the wall project and experimented with tonality and imaginative ways to use tape as a drawing tool. Black umbrellas of varying sizes hang upside down from the ceiling, blocking the sun from the skylights — opposing their traditional purpose — lending themselves as unconventional drawing surfaces for scribbles, words and line renderings.
CD cases, mattress springs, artificial flowers, old wooden frames, a hamster’s wheel make up the sculptural arrangement on the north wall — an energetic composition of unrelated objects reflecting the freshness of creativity and imagination unmitigated by thought and pre-planning.
“Out of Context” is an experience of illogical associations. The visceral limning, the recorded melody, the juxtaposition of unrelated objects and, most importantly, the use of “junk,” constitute an eco-poetic creative project born out of White’s idea of re-contextualizing a discarded object. “Philosophically, I saved the harp of the piano from going out in the environment and gave it a new art context,” says White.
The spirit of the collaborative creative process is epitomized in this project as the teens have worked expeditiously and intuitively under White’s guidance. The students’ receptivity to the use of new material and the unconventional thematic approach is indicative of their deep understanding of art methodology. “They just went with it,” White says.
“They saw things before they were done.”
“It would be interesting for someone to figure out the logic in this,” jokes White, too familiar with the expectations of a traditional art community. Indeed, the closest thing to tradition is the frame, which in this case is far from a gilded mounting — it’s simply the melody.
”Out of Context” runs through April 18. Tool Room Gallery, Bell Arts Factory, 432 Ventura Ave. Ventura. 644-9214 or www.vitaartcenter.com.