“Summer at LUMA” brings a trio of exhibitions featuring photography, watercolor, and multimedia works to the Loyola University Museum of Art, all on display through August 2.
In “Technotropic Romance: Andrei Rabodzeenko,” the Soviet-born, Chicago-based artist mixes charcoal and chalk with ink and collage to offer the viewer a bleak look at the state of humanity, at times referencing the biblical stories of Job and the Tower of Babel. Pieces such as With the help of big brother and We build our dreams hint at an apocalyptic future, awash in technology but lacking in intimacy. With harsh strokes of red and black on white, Rabodzeenko’s jagged, angular lines are intriguing at first glance, but the repetitive nature of both technique and theme made this the least engaging of the exhibits.
“In the Presence of Sacred Light: The Master Watercolors of Timothy J. Clark” shows off the contemporary artist’s virtuosity in a notoriously difficult medium. “[His work is] exquisitely rendered and infused with color and light,” says curator Janet Black. Sunday Morning Steam offers the gritty yet luminous urban landscape of the New York City skyline, while Maine Woodworking Shop of Raymond C. Small is a wonderful look into a craftsman’s workshop. But it is most often houses of worship that Clark paints. His travels have taken him to churches and synagogues across Europe and in major metropolitan American cities such as New York and Chicago. (There is a lovely rendering of the altar of our own St. James Cathedral.) Featuring both interiors and exteriors, Clark gives us dreamy looks at these sacred spaces, brimming with vitality and movement. The crown jewel of Clark’s work is Nessun Dorma (the title taken from a Puccini aria), a breathtaking view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica against the night sky of Rome.
“Touching Strangers: Richard Renaldi,” is the most fascinating of the three exhibits, as well as the most socially relevant. Beginning in 2007, Renaldi travelled across the United States asking people who were strangers to each other to pose together in ways usually reserved for friends, family, even lovers. It’s a provocative sociological experiment to see how the act of physical exchange fostered intimacy in a matter of mere minutes. Subjects often faced the camera, placing the viewer as a third stranger in the exchange. Other times, the subjects faced each other, and thus the viewer becomes voyeur. Though there are signs of awkwardness apparent in some of the subjects, the majority show little if any inhibitions in the final renderings, and the results are powerful statements on community and connection.
Many of the photographs feature commentary by staff and students of Loyola’s School of Social Work. Additionally, the exhibit contains a video documenting Renaldi’s process, enhancing viewers’ understanding and appreciation. “The exhibition causes us to reflect on the power of human touch and face-to-face interaction,” says Pamela E. Ambrose, the museum’s director of cultural affairs. “[The photographs] raise profound questions about the possibilities for positive human connection in a diverse society.”